Christmas Traditions in Ukraine

The tradition of celebrating Christmas in different regions of Ukraine. The requirements for the holiday table on the eve of the Sviat Vechir and describes how to prepare 12 major meatless meals fed to him. Lyrics for of classic Christmas carols.

Рубрика Культура и искусство
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Язык английский
Дата добавления 19.12.2012
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«Christmas Traditions in Ukraine»


1. Christmas Traditions in Ukraine.

2. Sviat Vechir

· Kutya

· Borshch

· Baked/Fried Fish

· Pickled Fish

· Holubtsi (Cabbage Rolls)

· Varenyky (pyrogies)

· Cooked beans

· Kapusta and peas

· Beets with Mushrooms

· Compote

· Donuts

3. Christmas carols

1. Christmas Traditions in Ukraine

Christmas in Ukraine is celebrated January 7 according to the Gregorian calendar as in most of other Orthodox Christian countries.

During the Soviet time it was not officially celebrated in Ukraine. Instead communist government tried to substitute Christmas with the holiday of New Year. But people did not forget their traditions. After gaining it's independence in 1991 Ukraine started to celebrate Christmas officially as well.

There are numerous Christmas traditions here. They vary significantly at the different parts of Ukraine.

In most parts of Ukraine on the Christmas Eve people create so-called `Vertep' (means cave in ancient Greek). These are scenes from Bible of Jesus birth. They show little Jesus in manger, Mary, strangers offering their gifts and Bethlehem star in the sky. Those verteps are exhibited at public places, usually near or inside churches. At night candles are installed inside verteps for people who come to church for the night service can observe them.

The Christmas Eve is called in Ukraine `Sviaty Vechir' (Holy Evening) sometimes also called `Sviata Vecheria' (Holy Supper). 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.

For this evening people install and decorate Christmas trees in their houses. (Sometimes they are called also `Novorichna Jalynka' -- New-Year's firtree here). Another tradition exists in some regions of Western Ukraine to decorate the table with `Didukh' -- a sheaf of oats or wheat of special shape: with four legs and numerous little bundles. It symbolizes prosperity for the next year.

St. Nicolas (Santa Claus) also called here `Did Moroz' is an ubiquitous Christmas character and is supposed to bring some gifts under the Christmas tree this night.

Also in some regions people make decorated Christmas eggs very similar to Easter eggs -- `Pysanky'.

Halloween is not celebrated in Ukraine but some similar traditions are performed here for Christmas. Children this evening come around their neighbors with torches and sparclers (called here Bengal lights) spreading grains and colored seeds. They wish people good health and abundant harvest for the next year and ask for some donations. Also they perform some Christmas songs called in different parts of Ukraine `Koliadky' or `Shchedrivky' like these:

"Radujsia zemle, radujsia. Syn Bozhyj narodyvsia." -- Joy, Earth, Joy. The Son of God was born.

"Dobryj vechir, Sviaty vechir. Dobrym liudiam na zdorovja." -- Good evening, Holy evening. To good people for good health.

Next day in some villages in Western Ukraine people organize some folk performances which obviously were inspired by ancient pagan habits. They dress up themselves as monsters with pelts and horns and run through the village trying to scare people. After that they run to the special place on the outskirts of the village and there happens the main act: they fight with all people of the village and finally are defeated. The scarecrows are burned in the big fire. And all people are dancing around this fire. This symbolizes the fight of Good and Evil and that Good defeated Evil for the whole next year.

celebrate christmas holiday

2. Sviat Vechir

To commemorate Christ's birth, the evening before Rizdvo, Sviat Vechir, a ritual meal is prepared with 12 meatless dishes. The recipes differ between the regions of Ukraine, here are the ones which my family will be preparing.


2 cups cleaned wheat

3-4 quarts water

1 cup cleaned poppy seed

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/3 cup honey, dissolved in

1/2 cup hot water

Wash wheat in cold water and soak overnight in the 3 to 4 quarts of water. The next day, bring the water to a boil then simmer for 4 to 5 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. The wheat is ready when the kernals burst open and the fluid is thick and creamy. Chop the poppy seed in a food processor and set aside. Mix honey, sugar and hot water. Before serving mix the honey mixture, poppy seeds, chopped nuts and wheat. More honey can be added to taste.


1 cup fresh or dried mushrooms

3 cups shredded cabbage

1 large onion - chopped

1/2 cup tomato juice

3 tbsp. vegetable oil

3 peppercorns

2 cups beets, sliced into strips

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup diced carrots

lemon juice (to taste:tart, not sour)

1 potato, diced salt and pepper

1/2 tsp. dill (fresh or frozen) 8-9 cups water

1 tsp. parsley (fresh)

Saute onion in oil until transparent. Add mushrooms- saute slightly and set aside. Cover beets, carrots, potato, parsley/dill with water and cook until barely tender. Add cabbage and cook until slightly tender. Add onions, mushrooms, tomato juice and salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice with caution since you want the borshch tart, not sour. Bring to boil and serve.

Baked/Fried Fish

- any variety of fish baked or fried, but if frying use only vegetable/olive/hemp oil (in keeping with the meatless nature of the meal)

Pickled Fish


2 filleted Whitefish (preferably caught while ice fishing) or 4 salt herrings Milt

2 large onions (sliced)

1 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tbsp pickling spices

Additional sugar if desired

1 glass of dry white wine

Wash the whitefish (or herrings) fillets and soak in cold water for about 12 hours, changing the water 2 or 3 times. Wash again and cut into the size you want to serve. Place into a jar or crockery with a layer of sliced onion and some milt between the layers of fish. Boil vinegar, water, wine, spices, and additional sugar for 10 minutes. Let the boiled mixture cool. Strain and pour it over the fish. Let stand at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours. Then store in the fridge for another half day.

Holubtsi (Cabbage Rolls)

- buckwheat and rice filled

To prepare the cabbage:

Place one large head of cored cabbage in a deep pot of boiling water to which salt has been added. Remove the leaves as they become soft. Cool and drain the leaves and remove any remaining core. Cut the leaves to the desired size (personally I cut them about 3" wide). Grease a cassarole dish and place a few leaves of cabbage to line it. Put a tablespoon full of filling (filling recipe follows) into each leaf and roll it up tucking in the edges of the leaves as you roll. Arrange the holubtsi in layers, adding some fried onions and garlic (to taste, sauteed in olive oil) between the layers. When the dish is filled place extra prepared cabbage leaves over the top to prevent scorching. Cover and place in 325 degree oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hrs or until both the cabbage and filling are tender. For a nice variation you could also use grape or beet leaves. Also, you could pour some tomato juice over the top to add flavour.


1. Rice Filling 2 cups rice

2 cups water

2 tsp. salt

1 medium onion (chopped)

4 tbsp olive oil


Wash rice well. Add water and stir in salt. Bring to boil and cook for one minute. Stir and cover. Turn down heat and simmer until rice starts to get tender. Take off of heat and let stand covered until the rest of the water is absorbed. The rice at this stage will only be partly cooked. Saute chopped onion in olive oil and add to the rice. Season to taste. Cool and roll into cabbage.

2. Buckwheat Filling 2 cups buckwheat groats

2 tsp. salt

1 medium onion (chopped)

4-5 tbsp. olive oil

4 cups water

Brown groats very lightly in the oven. Place in pot with boiling salted water. Add 4 tbsp olive oil. Cook until water is absorbed. Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. After baking allow the buckwheat to cool. Saute chopped onion in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the sauteed onions to the cooked buckwheat. Cool and fill the holubtsi.

Varenyky (pyrogies)

Dough 4 cups flour 1. Combine flour and salt

2 tsp salt 2. Add rest of ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil 3. Kneed until smooth and elastic

2 eggs well beaten 4. Cover and let stand at least 15 min.

1 cup water 5. Roll out thin on a floured board

6. Cut out rounds with a glass or beer mug


i. Potato2 cups mashed potatoes 1/2 cup chopped onion

2 tbsp. vegeatble oil salt and pepper to taste

- saute onions in oil, season, add potatoes and mix well.

ii. Kapusta (sauerkraut)2 cups sauerkraut 4 tbsp. vegeatble oil

1/2 cup onion, chopped pepper to taste

- bring sauerkraut to boil in some water. Rinse, cool, drain and squeeze out water. Chop finer if you want. Saute onions in oil and add to sauerkraut, season to taste.

iii. Prune filling1 cup prunes honey to taste

1/2 cup water

-bring prunes and water to a boil, let cool and drain. Chop prunes very fine and add honey to taste.

To make:

Add 1 tbsp of filling to each round of dough, fold over and pinch the dough together well. When boiling add a little salt and oil to the water so they don't stick together. When they come to the surface, they're ready.

Cooked beans

2 cups white beans 2 cloves garlic

7 cups water 1 onion, diced

1/8 tsp. baking soda 2 tsp. cooking oil

1 tsp. salt

Boil beans in water and add baking soda and salt when almost done. Continue simmering until beans are tender. Drain if necessary and set liquid aside for later. Mash beans well, adding bean liquid a little at a time until it is of a thick consistency. Crush garlic and stir into beans. Saute onions in oil and put on top of beans before serving.

Kapusta and peas

2 cups sauerkraut

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup water salt and pepper

1/2 cup dried peas

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tbsp. flour

Soak peas overnight. Rinse and drain. Cover with fresh water and cook until tender. Drain. Rinse sauerkraut in cold water and drain. Add the water and cook for 15 minutes. Combine peas and sauerkraut. Save the liquid. Saute onion in oil. Sprinkle flour over onions and brown lightly. Pour liquid from cooked sauerkraut and peas; add crushed garlic and stir until sauce thickens. Add sauce to sauerkraut and peas, stir and add salt and pepper to taste, simmer for 30 minutes and serve.

Beets with Mushrooms

3 cups chopped beets 1 clove garlic

1 medium onion, chopped finely salt and pepper to taste

3-4 tbsps. oil 1/2 tsp.lemon juice

1 cup mushrooms (fresh or canned)

Chop the raw beets finely and then boil in a bit of water until tender yet firm. Add lemon juice to beets. Simmer for 5 minutes. Rinse mushrooms in hot water. Drain. Saute onion in oil, then add mushrooms and crushed garlic and simmer for a half hour. Combine with beets and simmer a further 15 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.


Get an assortment of dried fruits such as apples, apricots, prunes, peaches, pears, figs or raisins and soak the fruit overnight in water. Next day, simmer until tender and add honey to sweeten to taste.


For the dough, it's easiest if you have a bread machine with a manual setting. In that case all you do is make up a batch of sweet dough, letting the machine take care of the kneading then following the directions after the (*). If not here is the longer, more traditional method.


8 cups flour

2pkg. yeast

3 cups milk

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp. salt

Dissolve yeast as instructed on package. Let stand 10 minutes. In a large bowl, put in part of the flour (about 6 cups), making a well in the middle. Beat the eggs lightly, add melted butter, milk, sugar and salt. Add this mixture to the flour along with the yeast. Mix well and knead until dough is soft and not sticky adding the remaining flour only as necessary. Knead about 10 minutes. Cover and let rise in a warm spot until double in bulk. Punch down and knead lightly. Let rise again. (*) Take a small amount of dough, roll on a lightly floured table. It must be fairly thick. Cut out rounds, coffee mugs work well. Place a small amount of filling in the centre bringing the edges together and pinch well to seal tightly. Place pompushky seam side down on lightly floured surface, cover and let rise a while, about 15 minutes. Do not let over rise. Deep fry in Canola Oil, about 375F for about 3minutes turning them to brown on both sides. When removing try to have most of the oil back into the pan, then leave the pompushky on paper towel for more oil to come off.


Poppy Seed (Maky)-1 cup poppy seed

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

1 cup raisins (opt)

1 tsp. vegetable oil

Grind the clean dry poppy seed in a coffee grinder and add to the moistened raisins. Add honey, nuts, vegetable oil well and then fold into the poppy seed- raisin mixture. Ready to be used.

Apricot-1 lb. apricots

Sugar to taste

1/4 cup crushed walnuts

Dash of cinnamon

1 tsp. of lemon juice

Boil apricots until soft. Drain thoroughly. Put through food processor or blender. Add the rest of the ingredients. Blend well. Ready to be used. Prune - the same recipe as for apricots but with 1 lb. of pitted prunes.

3. Christmas carols


Shchedryk, shchedryk, a shchedrivka [New Year's carol];

A little swallow flew [into the household]

and started to twitter,

to summon the master:

"Come out, come out, O master [of the household],

look at the sheep pen,

there the ewes are nestling

and the lambkin have been born

Your goods [livestock] are great,

you will have a lot of money, [by selling them]

if not money, then chaff: [from all the grain you will harvest]

you have a dark-eyebrowed [beautiful] wife."

Shchedryk, shchedryk, a shchedrivka,

A little swallow flew.

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