Ukraine Travel Guide

Traditions and Customs of Ukrainians

Everyday life of the Ukrainian folk as well as holiday’s celebration is often accompanied with interesting customs that have passed through the centuries. As a rule, Ukrainian youth, gladly takes over these traditions, maintaining spiritual continuity with their ancestors. Besides,in all these customs one can clearly notice how the pagan and Christian beliefs are interweaving with each other and that contributes to the brightfulness of the ceremonies.

The guests of the country have a unique opportunity to plunge into the world of Ukrainian culture, participating in the celebration of Christmas, Maslyana, Easter and Ivana Kupala (Midsummer); enjoying the mysterious rite of the wedding; listening Christmas carols – ‘kolyadki’ and ‘gaivki’, tasting delicious ritual food such as kutia(sweet grain pudding), Easter cake, and even joining to the exciting process of coloring Easter eggs.

Christmas

During the Christmas holidays in Ukraine, it is traditionally popular to sing carols, called ‘kolyadky’,children perform the Christmas songs going from house to house and wishing the owners of those houses peace and prosperity, "sowing" half grains with wheat or barley corns, that is believed to bring well-being and happiness.In gratitude the hosts gift the children with sweets and coins which bring good luck for the entire year. On Christmas Eve (Holy Night, the 6th of January in Ukraine) on the Eve of Christmas people strictly adhered the tradition of serving 12 Lenten dishes – equal to the number of apostles. Traditionally it includes kutia, uzvar, freshly baked bread and varenyky (in which the mistresses might hide coins) served to the table. Those who find a coin inside varenyk will be followed by good luck in the new year. The special place in the house is given to Didukh, carefully preserved from the time of hay harvest, the stems of various cereals such as oats, rye, wheat, and soft fragrant hay are inserted inside it.People sing Christmas songs at the table, remembering all the good that has happened during the past year and wish each other health and happiness.

Easter

Easter is the main Orthodox holiday.  This day the souls of the faithful folk are overflowing with the radiant joy, the nature is also contributing to this, the shackles of winter sleep are down now and with the harmony and the joy of the universe the resurrection of Christ is greeted. It is customary not to sleep the night before Easter, this evening everyone goes to church for the vigil service. People bring a variety of dishes for the consecration to the church and once returned home it is time to break the fast. Whatever the culinary diversity on the table may be, it is customary to start the celebration with the Easter bread. This day, every Orthodox Christian welcomes others with the words, "Christ is risen!", and receives a confirmation in response to these words, "Truly Risen!"

Ivana Kupala 

The ancient Slavic holiday Ivana Kupala is organised to the honor of the sun marks the summer solstice. It is full of rituals associated with water, fire and herbs. On this day daredevils jump over the fire, and at midnight people search for the fern flower to get the ability to see into the future and find a glut of wealth. Women, guards of birth and family hearth make wreaths. Girls and women in the early morning run to the woods or to the fields and charm the herbs to bring health to their close friends and relatives, they jump over the fire holding herbs and then weave  wreath of it for their husbands themselves. Single girls set their wreaths to the water and then judging to which bank their wreaths nail they know where they will get married.

Wedding traditions

The family is of great importance for Ukrainians, that is why wedding traditions, customs of matrimony and baptism are followed with special care. Wedding ceremonies begin with the rite of match-making: the groom sending in elders, respected older people, who are proposing to the parents of the bride. In the case of positive answer the girl makes an embroidered towel, in case of the negative one, the elders get a pumpkin. A few days before the wedding, one traditionally bakes a ritual bread- a round loaf. On the wedding day the fiancé goes to the house of fiancée to take her to the church, to get his bride he would be asked to pay the redemption. After the matrimony traditionally the celebration continues in the house of the husband and after the   dinner, the young wife unwinds her hair and gets a dressing cloth as a sign that she became a married woman. Festivities, games and songs, often continue during the next day.