Merry Christmas in Ukrainian

Christmas is a bright and rich in customs holiday that adults and children look forward to every year. A beautiful decorated Christmas tree, lovely gifts, melodious carols, a tasty meal, a huge Didukh (a sheaf of hay, standing in the corner at Christmas, symbolizing the spirit of the guardian of the economy and family) and mysterious fortune-telling are all elements of the celebration, without which it loses its charm. Every country in the world has its own traditions for Christmas. In Ukraine, they are also individual and authentic, but no less interesting than in any other corner of our immense planet.

Preparing for the holiday

It already began during the autumn harvest. Exactly when the festive Didukh was prepared – a sheaf of hay tied with a ribbon, which was decorated with various cereals: wheat, oats, rye. People chose the most beautiful spikelets, while the hay had to be soft and fragrant. Before the start of the holiday, even by the New Year, people tried to complete all the most important household chores: prepared feed for livestock, did general cleaning in the house, whitewashed the ceilings, painted chimneys and stoves.

Merry Christmas in Ukrainian

The traditions of celebrating Christmas in Ukraine have their own unique highlight. Women gathered in the evenings and, with the help of wax collected from their own apiary, made beautiful wicker candles, which then decorated the table and the room on Christmas Eve. Special prayers and charms were whispered over them, so that they would acquire miraculous powers. Young boys and girls, in turn, learned carols, sewed ritual costumes and made a vertep (scene of the cave, where Christ was born).

Christmas eve

On the morning of January 6, the whole family got up with the first roosters. The hostess took seven logs, which she set aside for seven weeks, and carefully placed them in the oven. Exactly on them the hostess should cook the main holiday dishes – kutya (ritual porridge) and uzvar (beverage from dried fruit). Traditionally at Christmas in Ukraine these logs were lit with a «living» flame, for these people used flint or the old method: they struck a spark with two pieces of wood. Only in the 20th-century matches began to be used, but in distant villages the custom of «live» fire has survived nowadays.

Merry Christmas in Ukrainian

The owner of the house, with the first rays of the sun, opened all the doors and windows in the house, even the gates of stables, sheds and barns. It was believed that the god of prosperity and harvest walks at this time on the earth and looks into those courtyards where he was cordially awaited. The cattle were sprinkled with poppy seeds to ward off evil spirits from it. Before the festive lenten supper, the men brought Didukh into the hut, after sprinkling it with water collected from the first-morning dawn. A prayer was pronounced over the sheaf, asking God for health and wealth in the current year.

Cooking dinner

It was a special ritual in which not only women took part, but also their husbands and children. Traditionally, at Christmas in Ukraine (in English – Christmas Eve) kutya was considered the main dish. For its preparation, people took crushed and soaked wheat, and also water collected before sunrise. After the kutya was cooked, people added nuts, honey, poppy seeds and raisins to it. As for the uzvar, it was made from dried fruits harvested in autumn: pears, apples, plums.

Merry Christmas in Ukrainian

Necessarily had to be present on the table and knish – a pie with a filling. A small loaf of bread was laid out on top of it, intended for the souls of deceased ancestors. Then the hostess baked lean rolls, cooked stuffed cabbage rolls with mushrooms, dumplings with potatoes and other dishes in new dishes. In total, there should have been 12 dishes. All festive dishes were laid out on the table, covered with a dinky tablecloth, in the corners of which were placed cloves of garlic – it protected the family from various evil spirits, as well as from evil and the evil eye.


After the table was set, the head of the family and his eldest son brought Didukh into the house. On the doorstep, they were met by the hostess with a lighted candle in one hand and a knish (a small round pie with cottage cheese or other filling baked inside) in the other. Traditionally, at Christmas in Ukraine, children installed Didukh on a pokut (a corner in a Ukrainian house, located diagonally from the stove) covered with hay. After that, the little ones ritually rolled on the floor so that the animals on the farm have not died.


Didukh in ancient times was an analog of the modern decorated Christmas tree. He is a symbol of Christmas, therefore he has always occupied an honorable place at the head of the table. Traditions of celebrating Christmas in Ukraine indicate that the Slavs who lived in this territory believed in the miraculous power of Didukh. They believed that after the harvest, the souls of deceased relatives move into it.

After the ceremonial movement of Didukh from the barn to the house, it was forbidden to make any homework. The girls even carried brooms and rags out into the streets to resist temptation. For three whole days people had fun and rest. The only thing that was allowed to do was to look after the livestock.

Lenten dinner

When all the rituals and ceremonies were done, family members changed into smart clothes and eagerly awaited the appearance of the first star in the night sky – only then could they sit down at the table. The whole day before that people had been fasting – they ate nothing, only drank water – so it was a particularly long-awaited moment.

Merry Christmas in Ukrainian

What are the Christmas traditions in Ukraine related to Holy Evening? First, according to custom, the head of the family was the first to sit at the table. Further in seniority are others: parents, wife, children. Before sitting down, the people blew on the chairs so as not to accidentally crush the spirits that could perch on them. Secondly, the owner always read a prayer, after which it was possible to have a meal. At first, they tried kutya, then all the other dishes in turn. All this time there was a knish in the middle of the table and a lighted candle stuck into it.

It was believed that if poor people came to the house for dinner, it was for luck. Throwing a kutya to the ceiling with a spoon was also a good omen: people believed that the ritual would bring the cattle rich offspring, and, accordingly, prosperity for them.

After dinner

Traditionally, C Holy Evening in Ukraine ended with carols. People sang them at first in the bosom of their families, then launched into the house whole bands of mummers with verteps, who wished the owners prosperity, health and good luck, after which they sang ritual songs about the birth of Christ with their blessing. As a reward, they received sweet treats or a ringing penny.

No one went to sleep after the Holy supper. People tried to spend this time with their families. It was not customary to leave the house: only children took the treats from the table and took them to their grandparents, as well as to their godparents. On the windowsills, candles were burning all night: they illuminated the path for the souls of the dead, who could look into the light. Also, kutya and other dishes were left for them on the festive table.

Merry Christmas in Ukrainian

After midnight, the girls wondered on their betrothed: on coffee grounds, mirrors, boots and logs. It was believed that exactly on this night the curtain of the future could be opened as much as possible. It was impossible to quarrel, get angry and say bad words, because that night they could be heard by the evil spirits that wandered under the windows.

January 7

The next day, from the early morning, the carolers came again. These were boys-vincuvalny (the boys who congratulated), girls could be greeted by the owners only on January 8th. By tradition, at Christmas in Ukraine (in English – Christmas Day), children were generously presented with pies, sweets, apples and nuts. People went to church for a festive service, after which it was believed that Christmas fully entered into its legal rights.

It was celebrated for at least three days: all this time, the locals went to visit each other, sang carols and rested. The heads of families lit the houses with candles from the church, sprinkled the corners with holy water. They ate no longer lean, but meager food. Traditionally, at Christmas in Ukraine on January 7, they served blood sausage, jellied meat, roast meat, smalec (fat, melted from lard), homemade yellow cheese, stuffed piglets and so on. In the evenings, people gathered near the church and organized festivities: they danced, sang, wished everyone they met happiness and good luck in the New Year.