Ukrainian Christmas

5 Jan


We have lived in Canada for almost 20 years now and one of the things that I like about living here is that we get to celebrate 2 Christmases, 2 New Years and 2 Easters.  All of my favourite holidays times 2!

Why?  Because we are Ukrainian Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Church honors the Julian calendar which was in use two thousand years ago.   For this reason we have continued to celebrate Christmas on the old date.

Our Christmas Eve is tomorrow.  My daughter and I have been preparing Ukrainian traditional dishes since yesterday!  I am very grateful for modern technology in the kitchen as many dishes are quite time consuming.

When Ukraine accepted Christianity in 988 A.D many pagan traditions were in existence.   Many of these traditions
were adapted into the new religion. Some of those traditions have survived a thousand years and formed a part of our Christmas celebrations.

This is how we celebrate Christmas.  It’s strictly a family affair and we do not exchange gifts on Christmas (it’s done on NYE!).

  • The floor should be covered with straw and hay to celebrate the birth of Christ in the stable.  We’ve never done it here (where would I find straw and hay in Toronto) but my grandmother in Ukraine always used to do it.
  •  Svjata Vecherya (or Holy Supper)  is the heart of the of the celebration.  It starts with the first start appears in the sky.  There is no turkey or ham, and there is no Christmas cookies.  The meal consists of 12 dishes (representing 12 Apostles)  containing no meat, dairy, and eggs.
  • The meal must start with some Kutya (wheat berries with poppy seeds, walnuts and honey), a holy ritual dish for many Slavic people.  This dish is very ancient, many believe it represents abundance for the family.
  •  Kolach (another ritual food)  is placed on the table, with a lighted candle (to remind of the Star of Bethlehem) in its centre.
  • We set the extra placing “to invite” the souls of the departed family members and to let them know that they are remembered.  Any passing stranger is welcome as it is believed that it could be a soul of a departed family member who came to visit.
  • In Ukraine, after the supper the carollers visit home after home and wish the family happiness and blessings by singing Koliady (Carols) and eveybody is getting ready for Midnight Mass.  In Canada, Koliady are carried out only in churches.

There are lots of customs and superstitions that my grandmother used to tell me about but unfortunately I have forgotten them.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it!




22 Responses to “Ukrainian Christmas”

  1. rebecca2000 January 5, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Wow that is cool to learn about. I love Christmas. It facinates me how others celebrate it different, even within the US. We all have such different backgrounds. I have some Pagan friends that celebrate Yule.

  2. boohoobaby2013 January 5, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Melisa R January 5, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    I had a college professor from the Ukraine. She didn’t share much of her culture with us but I’m certainly glad you have.

    • The Kat and The Falling Leaves January 5, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

      Every region in Ukraine has different traditions. I am from the Western Ukraine where more pagan traditions were preserved. If you professor was from the Eastern part they may have had different traditions.

  4. Esenga' s Voice January 6, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    Aren’t you lucky to have all these holidays twice! 🙂
    И… c Рождеством!

  5. chef mimi January 6, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Fascinating! I’m glad you carry on the traditions! Thank you!

  6. benvenutocellini January 6, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    …So this is Christmas
    And what have you done
    Another year over
    And a new one just begun
    And so this is Christmas
    I hope you have fun
    The near and the dear ones
    The old and the young

    A very merry Christmas
    And a happy New Year
    Let’s hope it’s a good one
    Without any fear……..

    ……Merry Christmas …again::))

  7. birchpoet January 6, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    This was a fascinating and informative read I enjoyed a lot. It’s so cool to hear the traditions of our diversity. So many correspond to so many others – diverse yet connected. Lovely post – Merry Christmas again! Our tradition tonight is 12th night, or the end of the yule. Cheers!

    • The Kat and The Falling Leaves January 7, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

      Thank you, I am glad it was interesting to read.
      Hope you had a great celebration! xoxo

      • birchpoet January 7, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

        We did, thank you, and I hope yours was also. Your fish looked yummy. I must admit, though, I am glad the decorations are in their boxes and moving back to storage. Out with the old, and in with the new! Happy new year!

      • The Kat and The Falling Leaves January 7, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

        Happy New Year to you too! We keep the tree and all decorations until January 14th (Old New Year celebration).
        P.S. People loved the fish, it came out good 🙂

  8. Kerri Bennett Williamson January 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Merry Orthodox Christmas today! I thoroughly enjoyed your posts about Ukrainian Christmas traditions and foods. You’ve got me seriously pondering making at least Kolach!


  1. Svjata Vecherya / Holy Supper – Ukrainian Christmas Eve « The Kat & the Falling Leaves - January 7, 2013

    […] night we had our twelve-dish meatless Christmas Eve meal.  I’ve invited over some of my friends as my daughter and  I don’t have any […]

  2. Ukrainian Christmas « Kerri Bennett Williamson - January 7, 2013

    […] Ukrainian Christmas. […]

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