Learn about the rich cultural traditions for Christmas in Ukraine. Kateryna shares about what kinds of foods you will find at Sviata Vecheria (Christmas Eve) dinner, the beautiful tradition of Schedryi Vechir (Caroling), and some of the religious symbolism of their traditions.
Ukraine has been separated from Russia for over 20 years but Kateryna expressed how misconceptions about Ukraine being part of Russia and general misunderstandings about Ukraine led to her desire to be an ambassador of her country.
Since Ukraine follows the Gregorian Calendar, their Christmas festivities run from January 6th to the 7th. Whenever you decide to celebrate Christmas you can learn about their traditions and foods.
Once you have listened to the podcast, take a virtual field trip with your family to learn a little more about Ukrainian Christmas.
Table of contents
Christmas food traditions for Sviata Vecheria
Borscht and holubtsi are very well known dishes from Ukraine. Although they are made at Christmas time, there are also many other dishes. There is also a perception that Ukrainian dishes are all based around pork or fish, but this is not the case.
Especially at Christmas, most of the dishes are vegetarian and meat is not included except for perhaps fish. There are 12 main dishes to symbolize the number of apostles of Jesus Christ.
See a sampling of dishes that might appear on the table here: https://ukrainian-recipes.com/12-traditional-meals-for-sviat-vechir-ukrainian-christmas-eve.html
Pies are also popular desserts served at Christmas. There is also a type of cinnamon roll without icing but instead of cinnamon sugar filling, itś poppy seed.
The most important dish of Christmas is Kutia. It is a very simple but nourishing dish consisting of grains, poppy seeds and honey without any fat or any special ingredients. Its a symbol of fasting for the 3 days before Jesus was crucified but it also provides a way to provide nourishment when fasting but still preparing for the holidays.
Christmas Eve is a chance for all of the family to come together. Although family gatherings were not such a challenge in the past, as families become more spread out, the Christmas Eve dinner is a chance for the whole family to gather and talk and visit together.
There is no direct translation for Schedryi Vechir which is a special performance and caroling that has some similarities to American Trick or Treating where participants visit from house to house.
Koliada, caroling, is a tradition that now mainly happens in villages and has been forgotten in the cities. Although kolyaduvannya used to be done only by adults, it is now often done by children. Participants who are dressed up walk from house to house singing carols and offering greetings and well wishes for the new year and role playing the Nativity story. In return, listeners offer small gifts of money, food, or candy.
One of the most popular songs is one you might be familiar with. The famous Christmas carol, Carol of the Bells, is a Ukrainian folk song. In its original Ukraine it tells the story of a swallow who visits a family and tells them of all the bounty they will have. New lyrics were written by an American composer and the song was popularized around the world.
Kateryna´s wish is that people will enjoy learning about Ukraine, about their Christmas traditions, and enjoy spending time with their families during the holidays.
Thank you for joining me on this journey! Happy exploring!
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Additional learning for families: Ukrainian Christmas Virtual Field Trip For Kids
Read more about Ukrainian Christmas traditions: https://ukrainianpeople.us/ukrainian-christmas-traditions/