Christmas in Ukraine is similar to the Christmas in Russia and it’s the most important family holiday of the whole year. It is celebrated solemnly, as well as merrily, according to ancient customs that have come down through the ages and are still observed today. Christmas in Ukraine is celebrated January 7 according to the Gregorian calendar as in most of other Orthodox Christian countries.
The season of Christmas begins with advent (Pylypivka)-four weeks of fasting and preparing one’s self for the birth of Christ. In preparation for Christmas, the house is cleaned from top to bottom and the Christmas tree decorated with various knick-knackery and sweets is installed. A sheaf of wheat (didukh) is saved from the harvest. The didukh represents the family: the living, the dead and those unborn. Before Christmas Eve, the sheaf is decorated with ribbons, flowers and a small wreath of basil. It is put under an icon in a corner of the room on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas Eve in Ukraine is called ‘Sviata Vecheria’ (Holy Supper). Dinner table has a little hay on embroidered tablecloths to symbolize the manger of Bethlehem where Christ was born. Children announce the appearance of the first Star in the eastern evening sky and dinner is begun. The star symbolizes the trek of the Three Wise Men. People usually cook some tasty foods for this evening. There should be at least 12 different foods on the table. Those should mandatory include ‘Kutia’ — the ritual food which is prepared from cooked wheat and special syrup containing diluted honey, grated poppy seeds, raisins and sometimes walnuts.
At the end of the Holy Supper the family often sings Kolyadky, Ukrainian Christmas Carols. In many communities the old Ukrainian tradition of caroling is carried on by groups of young people and members of organizations and churches calling at homes and collecting donations, also little gifts, fruit, sweets . Church services start before midnight on Christmas Eve and continue until Christmas mornings.
In the past, ‘Did Moroz’ (Father Frost) used to bring children Christmas gifts to Ukraine on 19th of December but now the date has been changed to the Christmas date. Did Moroz rides a sleigh to which only three reindeers are harnessed. Snowflake Girl helps Father Frost in his journey. She wears silver blue costume trimmed with white fur and a snowflake-like crown.