Christ was born! Glory to Him! – Christmas in the Ukraine

In this article, we will briefly get acquainted with the celebration of the New Year’s and Christmas holidays in Ukraine.

By Nataliya Sira  / 6.1.2018

The New year melodies and fresh scent of pine are already in the pre holiday winter air. For the whole year everyone was waiting for them, and finally the New Year holidays are coming and with them the opportunity to stay at home with relatives and to relax away from everyday busy life. And how wonderful are festive illuminations and decorations that are shining at every corner of big cities! New Year holidays mean the warmth of home. Yes, it’s just when white snowflakes cover all the dwellings, turning the city into a winter kingdom, and when the temperature outside the window drops to -10°C, or even to -20°C, staying inside by the fireplace and surrounded by our relatives becomes really priceless. To this mix of heat inside the house, opposed to the cold outside, just add gifts, delicious festive dishes and here it is, a real New Year’s miracle. Probably the expectation of the celebration gives even more importance to these events, because the New Year, like Christmas, happens only once a year.

Christmas tree in Kyiv. Photo: flickr (Adam Lederer)

One of the biggest religious holidays that signal the arrival of the New Year and Christmas holidays is St. Nicholas Day; in Ukraine it is celebrated on December 19. All Ukrainian children are waiting for this day with curiosity, as it is during the night on St. Nicholas that a miracle happens: it is said that St. Nicholas visits all wellbehaved children while they are sleeping and leaves them a gift under their pillow. These presents can vary from sweets, books or toys to everything else that children have asked St. Nicholas for in advance by writing him a personal letter. It is interesting to know that the traditions associated with the St. Nicholas holiday were born in Germany and were later adopted by many European countries.

The next holiday is New Year. On the night from December 31 to January 1 the whole country celebrates the beginning of the new year with dancing, music and rich night banquets. Usually Ukrainians spend this evening in the company of friends, less often with their relatives.

The most important religious event of the winter period is Christmas. In Ukraine, the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated on January 7 according to the Julian calendar. It is known that this calendar was introduced in year 46 BC in Rome by Julius Caesar and due to his inaccuracy, in the XVI century, the Catholic Church moved to the Gregorian calendar (the calendar of Pope Gregory XIII). In Ukraine, the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1918. Despite this, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church continue to follow the Julian calendar, which differs from the Gregorian church calendar by 13 days. Recently, the question of the possible transition of the church to the Gregorian calendar is very relevant in Ukrainian society. For example, in 2017, it was decided to give the day of December 25, the Catholic Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar, the status of a festive, non-working day. Maybe in the future it will lead to the celebration of the Ukrainian Christmas on December 25.

Whenever it may be, the night immediately before will always be a Holy Evening. On the evening of January 6, Ukrainians meet with their relatives to see the first star in the sky, which will announce the birth of Jesus Christ. Traditionally, 12 meat free dishes are cooked and after the sunset the caroliers start to sing carols, going from one home to another. Here you can listen to one of my favorite New Year’s melodies performed by Oleg Skrypka and Le Grand Orchestry “Shchedryk”

In general, Christmas holidays in the Ukrainian society are closely connected with the church, and apart from the joy of being with relatives or of tasting the delicious dishes, most Ukrainian families attach great importance to attending the divine liturgies.


Nataliya Sira (Ukraine)

Studies: Foreign Languaguages for International Cooperation and Communication

Languages: Ukrainian, Italian, English, Russian, German

Europe is… more opportunities for everyone!


Sarah Robinson (United Kingdom)

Studies: French and German Language and Literature

Languages: French, German, English

Europe is… complex and invaluable.

Author: Anja

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