Christmas in Ukraine as in the whole Orthodox world is celebrated a bit later than in the most countries of the world, namely on January, 7. The traditions and customs of Christmas in Ukraine differ considerably from European or American ones. Here are the main ones:
Christmas Eve (The Holy Evening)
Christmas begins on January, 6 – the Holy Evening. On this day, with the advent of the first star, Ukrainians sit down at a generous but fast table. Festive dinner traditionally consists of 12 dishes, which symbolize 12 Apostles. The main Christmas dish is kutia – wheat or barley porridge with raisins, poppy, honey and nuts. The Holy Evening is usually spent in the circle of the whole family. During dinner at the table, in any case no one can argue or swear.
In the morning of January, 7 Ukrainians greet each other with a phrase “Christ was born!” and in response hear “Glory to Him!” On this day people usually go to church and visit their relatives and friends.
Carols are one more important element of Ukrainian Christmas. They are songs about the birth of Christ as well as wishes for the hosts of the house happiness, health and wealth. People sing carols during meal time, when they visit each other. Also children go caroling to their neighbours and relatives, and receive money or sweets for their songs. It is believed that the more carolers will visit the home, the more generous will be a year for the family.
One more Christmas custom in Ukraine is vertep. It can be either a mobile miniature puppet theater placed in a box, or live vertep with actors which takes place right in the street. The classic plot of the vertep is the story of Jesus Christ birth.
Yet the best tradition and value of Christmas is to spend time with the family.