Ukraine: Strange Christmas Traditions
1.Spidey Christmas: Instead of glittering ornaments and tinsel, Their Christmas trees are covered in artificial spiders and cobwebs. Why are they into spiders for Christmas? The local folklore, was there was a poor woman who couldn't afford to decorate her Christmas tree. The next day when her children awoke and went down the stairs they found their tree covered in webs, and when the first light of Christmas morning hit the webs it turned the colors of the web gold and silver and the family was never left with want again. From that day on it is believed that when they see a spider web on their tree in the first Christmas morning light it brings good luck.
2. Moo Under The Dinner Table: The centerpiece of the house is ‘didukh’ a sheaf of wheat that literally means ‘grandfather's’ spirit’ and it's meant to symbolize the staff of life. Their Christmas dinner is usually consists of twelve vegan dishes, with Kutya- cooked wheat, mixed with poppy seeds, honey, and raisins- being the main dish of the holiday. Other than caroling, Ukraine's love to dress up and participate in improvised Christmas plays. If you ever are fortunate enough to share a Christmas dinner with a Ukrainian family, don’t be surprised if the honorable entrance of Kutya is accompanied with inspired mooing, wailing, and barking from under the table. The children of the household are just trying to bring in the good harvest and rich herds of animals.
3. Kick Off Your Boots On St. Catherine’s Day: This is a female holiday that is dedicated to the St. Catherine of Alexandria - a Christian saint, who had died back in the early 4th century at the hands of the Pagan Emperor. Unmarried girls gather together traditionally for a so-called ‘vecharynski’- Evenings devoted to good food, plenty of gossip, and fun fortune-telling customs. If you get a chance to join one of these special meetings, don't be surprised by all the candles, key chains, and baby dolls. They take their fortune-telling seriously. So take off your boots and join their famous shoe line-up tradition: If your shoe is the closest to the door then you will be the first to get married. If you’re a guy don’t be surprised if a random girl walks up to you on the street and asks your name, they are only trying to find the man they will marry. Whether you believe in good or bad fortune-telling be ready for a festive evening, full of great borsch and delicious dumplings. Bygone customs and folk songs that connect the Ukrainian women to their female ancestors from long ago.
4. Misbehave on St. Andrew’s Day (Dec. 13th): Vision waking up on St. Andrew’s Day to a beautiful crisp cold morning, just to find out your fence isn't there. You take a few days to search for it until you give up. Then, a few months later, when spring comes you see how your fence suddenly appears in your neighbor's yard, tucked under the melting snow. At least a horse-cart wasn't found on the roof of your barn like your neighbor two doors down. If the women get a holiday in the winter to themselves then so do the men. The guys get St. Andrew’s day, it is celebrated by both sexes but the guys get the most fun for this holiday. For St. Andrews men are officially allowed to create trouble. From playing pranks to painting barns- They make the most of their holiday privileges.
5.Celebrate Christmas (Sans Santa) in January: The Ukraine's love christmas the most, Its their favorite holiday. But even for christmas they bring so many ancient rituals, that at times the line between both religious and pagan become a little blurry and makes it very tough to differentiate what had come after the 9th- century country- wide baptism from what came before. First of all, most Ukrainians belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church and follow the Julian calendar. This means that all holidays in Ukraine and many other countries lack 13 days behind everyone else. However in Ukraine don’t expect to see santa claus, rudolph, or stockings, Ukrainian christmas centers itself around the figure of Christ. The shops are filled with managers, carolers sing religious songs, and every traditional christmas dinner in some way connected to the birth of Jesus and his apostles. They greet people with ‘Christ is born’ and responds with ‘Glorify him’.
6.Celebrate New Year’s Twice: In Ukraine, they love to celebrate a lot, that they even made sure that they had two New Year’s Eves. The first one follows the Gregorian Calendar and falls on January 1st when they join the rest of the world in the craziness of fireworks and all night parties. The second one follows the Julian calendar and falls on january 14th, leaving them plenty of time to rest from the after the all night partying from the 1st New Year’s Eve. During the second New Year’s Eve they throw in their own strange ancient customs and hold the vibrant ‘Malanka’ celebrations on the ‘Old New Year’ On that night you’ll join the crowds of young people walking around houses, caroling, and acting out small christmas plays. Some single guys dress in women’s clothes and lead troops around as “Grandma Malanka” Men who aren't fans of crossdressing go for more masculine roles such as the goat or the grandpa.Old New Year’s Eve is one of your last chances to go wild and have fun before 40 days of Somber Fasting for Lent arrives. -Kaitlyn Back