Why are there a lot of holidays in Ukraine? Why do you celebrate some of them twice? For example, how could you celebrate the New Year twice? We are not surprised with these questions about the Ukrainian holidays asked by the guests of our country. Our answer will be short – the one who can work – is able to rest. Ukrainians are emotional, merry, melodious and energetic. They like to direct their intense positive vitality to the festive activities! As they say it is an idea made in heaven for Ukrainians to enjoy the life and celebrate any events. If you feel yourself as a “holiday analyst” you will notice some cultural regularity.
Holidays in Ukraine assimilate and mix the old heathen traditions and Orthodox culture, Soviet holiday heritage and European innovations and international universalities. 20 years of independence also assist to extend the State calendar of the holidays in Ukraine. If you add the personal and family important events and professional dates which are highly respected – you will have 365 holiday days. It is possible to conclude that Ukraine is a country of holidays! Join us!
A wonderful philosophical saying that the anticipation of the holiday is more important than the holiday itself probably was born in Ukraine – as we live in constant anticipation and merry expectation of many holidays in Ukraine. These holidays unite and help to be united. Everybody has his/her own beginning of the calendar year. Someone starts it with his/her own birthday, someone with September 1 (the beginning of the school year). However, telling about the Ukrainian holidays we will refer to the traditional seasonal calendar. But let’s start with the first winter month – December – not with January 1. December is filled with many wonderful and magic, merry and bright (like the Christmas tree decorations) winter holidays in Ukraine. December 19 is a day of St. Nicolas. By the way, in the Ukrainian language the words holiday (svyato) and saint (svyuatoy) have the common coot. With the blessing of the patron saint of all children and since this date the Ukrainians plunge into the amazing atmosphere of the gifts under the pillow (or under the Christmas tree) and surprises in the St. Nicolas red boots, greetings and merry chores, round dances and office parties. They all smoothly flow into the Christmas holiday of December 25. Though most Ukrainians are Orthodox, Catholic Christmas is celebrated as a secular holiday lately. Probably a merry Christmas wave spreading all over Europe reaches our country too. On January 1 it turns into the New Year in Ukraine. Champagne, Christmas tree in each apartment and in the main square of each city, Olivier salad (Russian salad) (echo of our Soviet past), smell of tangerines, merry celebration at home, at friends’ place, in the street; dances and songs till the morning – it is a short algorithm of Ukrainian celebration of the New Year. Most people consider this holiday the main one in the year. And many people celebrate this holiday at home, among the family and close people contrary to Christmas in Europe and USA. As for our Christmas, January 7, this holiday in Ukraine is celebrated according to the old traditions. Probably Christmas is the most authentic Ukrainian holiday, it throws back to the Old-Ukrainian religion. On the eve of this day the children bring the gifts – Holy food (kollyva) and stewed fruit – to their Godparents, which in their turn give their small Godchildren sweets and presents. We recommend all guests of Ukraine to taste 12 festive dishes, see the guisers and puppet-show of the Nativity, listen to Christmas carols. They are full of beauty, full of inspiration and it is really the Ukrainian style!
Christmastide lasts 12 merry days after Christmas and till Epiphany (January 19). People use to tell fortunes at that period. Though these echoes of heathenism are condemned by the church, this holiday entertainment is popular among the Ukrainian girls which are eager to know something about their future intended husband. The last day of Christmastide is Epiphany. On that day people should dip into the ice hole. This old rite is more and more popular among the Ukrainians. Many people do it – from ordinary people up to Presidents. If you are in Ukraine in January – welcome to the ice hole! And do not forget to celebrate the Old New Year! This interesting holiday is celebrated on January 14 in Ukraine, and in other republics of ex-USSR. This tradition originated from the difference between Julian calendar (old style calendar) и Gregorian calendar (almost all the world lives according to it). In 1918 (when the chronology was changed) original and unique phenomena was born – an additional holiday. Due to this difference everyone who did not manage to celebrate the New Year always has the chance to re-celebrate the beloved Ukrainian holiday on the night of the 13th/14th January. So if you did not manage to celebrate the New Year – welcome to Ukraine to have fun at the celebration of the old New Year!
February 14 is St. Valentine Day. This Ukrainian holiday became very popular within last 10 years. It confirms that Ukraine is a young and very passionate country. Later at the end of winter Malenitsa (Pancake festival) is celebrated right on the eve of the Great Fast – it is a Ukrainian holiday for the stomach. It is the holiday filled with the games, snowballs, skates. The main hero is a pancake (it is a symbol of Sun in many Slavic nations). In February-Mart there is a double gender holiday with two-week interval. On February 23 the women congratulate the men with their day according to Soviet tradition. Some time ago its official name was the Day of the Soviet Army and Navy. Then it turned into the Ukrainian holiday, Day of Fatherland Defenders. Despite of the fact that young and independent Ukraine has its own date – Armed Forces day (December 6) - February 23 is considered to be the Men’s day. Even for the men who have never served in the army. Probably it is fair. As in two weeks the time for women comes. Why are there so many beautiful women? – ask the foreigners astonished with the beauty of the Ukrainian ladies. We have only one answer – because in spring when everything is blossoming and restoring many grateful men do their best to congratulate their mothers, wives, sisters and colleagues with this wonderful Ukrainian holiday – Women’s Day – March 8. If to be serious – we agree – our ladies are gorgeous! It is one more Ukrainian miracle worth to see.
There is a special spring holiday – April 1 – Day of humor and jokes. Ukraine has a city where a fun festival is held – Yumorina. It is warm Odessa, so called “pearl at the seaside”, with its unique accent, a habit to answer with a question and famous Odessa anecdotes.
Holidays in Ukraine are impossible without Easter (with floating, changeable date). This holiday is a great, spiritual and really festive day due to its origin! This name is older than thousand years and this holiday is the most important among the other Christian holidays. Before the holiday many Ukrainians keep the Great Fast. A few fays prior to Easter Sunday you can feel amazing and incomparable smell of traditional Easter cakes. Starting from the Great Thursday people paint the Easter eggs and bake cakes. These recipes are the important elements of each family which unites many generations and is a real family heritage (see Ukrainian cuisine).
In spring the Ukrainian holidays include May 1 – International Day of Worker's Solidarity (Soviet variant), or Day of commencement of the lawn-and-garden work (humorous folk variant). May 8 is a Mather’s Day (rather young holiday). May 9 is a Victory Day in the World War Two. We are grateful to the people who fought for our Motherland in the battle with fascism. At the beginning of summer and of the school holidays we celebrate the Children's Day (June 1). There are three more important Ukrainian holidays which are celebrated in summer (more seldom – in spring). One of them is religious - the Trinity Sunday. The last two are the important state holidays of Ukraine: Constitution Day – June 28 and Independence Day – August 24.
As you see, Ukrainian holidays are versatile and diverse. I would like to add that we treasure family values. Marriage proposal and engagement, weddings and their anniversaries, birth and baptism – we celebrate any event following the Ukrainian traditions, which are ages-old. The tables are groaned with tasty and festive food. The songs are sung with abandonment and inspiration, as the folk soul can do. And greetings are sincere and frank.
If you are lucky to plunge into the amazing atmosphere of any holiday in Ukraine, you will understand this country and its open and talented people.
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