Christmas appears to be one of the greatest holidays for Ukrainians, while Christmas customs belong to the most bright ones.

Ukraine celebrates Christmas according to the Julian calendar, that is why we have it on 7th January. The whole cycle of holidays lasts way longer: it starts with the Holy Supper on 6th January and ends with the Epiphany on 19th January.

On 6th January, which is the Holy Supper, each Ukrainian family is busy preparing a fasting supper. There should be 12 dishes on the table out of which kutia is the chief one. Kutia is a centerpiece, which is made of boiled wheat to which honey, nuts, poppy seeds and other ingredients are added. Varenyky, stuffed with mashed potato, cherries, other berries or sauerkraut, is also a must for fasting supper. All the other dishes are also lenten. Fish and mushrooms fit the category perfectly.
Having meals during the day before the supper is forbidden. All the family members join the table when the first star starts twinkling in the night sky. Then, a didukh, which is a bunch of grain plants, is put into a bowl with kutia. Ukrainians believe that didukh saves their dwellings from all the evil. A garlic bulb should be put on the table under a tablecloth, while a bundle of straw finds its place under the family table. The custom implies that the youngest kids must sit on the bundle gambling like chickens. Ukrainians believe that it helps maintain poultry in a good order. The oldest man in the family blesses everybody when the whole family finally sits at the table praying and a candle is lit. Then, all the family members in turns from the oldest to the youngest taste kutia.

Christmas is celebrated on 7th January. On this day, the morning starts with going to church. Throughout the day, children go from house to house singing carols. People gather to take part in Nativity plays: lads dress up like angels or historical figures, reproduce the Nativity scene and historical occurrences connected with Christmas, sing carols. Toward evening, Jews (cultural heroes), which are boys in costumes of evil creatures, can be seen on the streets. They also sing carols and force evil spirits out of people’s dwellings.

Translated by Bohdan Serediuk