Is it interesting for you to know how Ukrainian women and their families celebrate Christmas? Christmas begins on January 6 with the Christmas Eve. In Ukraine traditions of Christmas celebration passed from generation to generation. Our great-grandparents were waiting for this holiday all year and diligently prepared for it.
In particular, Christmas is preceded by the forty days’ fast, which begins on November 28 and ends on January 7. This fast is traditionally called Pylypivka (Philip fast) since the last day before the fast comes to the day of the memory of St. Apostle Philip.
At Christmas Eve, Ukrainians sit at the generous, but fast table and spend it in the circle of the whole family.
This day is associated with such a tasty dish as kutia (an essential dish at the Ukrainian Christmas Eve Supper, the main ingredients of which are wheatberries, poppy seeds and honey. At times, walnuts, dried fruit and raisins are added as well). It flaunts on the table among 11 more dishes. After all, everyone knows that 12 dishes must be prepared for the Holy supper. Kutia is the first dish to eat.
The host first sits at the table, lights a Christmas candle and blesses supper, after that tastes kutia and gives it to the family. After tasting kutia you can go to the other dishes – fish, mushrooms, borsch, varenyky (boiled dough with fillings), stewed cabbage, potatoes, uzvar (a compote of dried fruits: mainly apples, pears and plums) and so on. In different regions of Ukraine, a set of dishes is different but still their quantity is kept.
It is also worth to dwell on the decorating of the table. In the old days the table was lined with straw, and the floors of the house with hay – it was the symbol of manger where newborn Jesus was put. Traditionally, some small grains are poured on the table and covered with a tablecloth, under which cloves of garlic are put in the corners of the table – it protects the family from illnesses and evil forces.
At Christmas Eve, didukh is brought to the house – rye, wheat or oatmeal sheaf. It symbolizes the crop, welfare, the spirit of the ancestors and is the charm of family. The tradition to put didukh at Christmas Eve also extends from the times of paganism.
Christ was born!
On the morning of January 7, Ukrainians greet each other with the phrase “Christ was born!” and in response hear “We will glorify him!” On this day, people usually visit the church, and also go to visit relatives and friends.
On the first day of Christmas, fast ends, so Ukrainians are sitting down for a truly festive table and sing carols.
From time immemorial there was a good custom among our people to wish each other and the owners happiness-health, many years of life and all sorts of wealth in the home and family.
Already after the Holy supper Ukrainians began to go to other people’s homes, congratulated the hosts and their children with songs and reproduction of household scenes and wish them harmony and prosperity. Carollers start to go to people’s houses from the Holy evening. They often carry a big star on a stick – which symbolizes Bethlehem one which signified the birth of Christ.
Before entering the house, young people or children ask for permission to sing carols. When the hosts agree, the carollers begin to sing about the birth of Christ and also wish the hosts happiness, health and prosperity, for which the carollers are awarded with sweets and money.
Each Ukrainian girl at least once sang carols in her childhood. It is believed that the more carollers will visit the home, the more generous will be for the family a year.
An ancient tradition has the Ukrainian custom from Christmas to act with vertep. There are reasons to think that already in the XVII century Ukrainians put up for Christmas vertep drama – it was a well-known and widespread custom throughout Ukraine.
Plots of Christmas verteps are usually the same: King Herod learns from the Magi about the birth of Jesus, who is a contender for his throne. To get rid of an opponent, Herod orders a soldier to beat all the Bethlehem children from the age of 2 years and younger. The warrior executes the order, but the old woman, Rachel, does not give her child for beating. Then Herod, who is angry, orders to kill her child. For this crime, death cuts off Herod’s head and devils drag him to hell.