Optimistic festivities

19.12.2014 | By Leonid Uzvar

While the entire Western world stylishly celebrates Catholic Christmas, the main winter holidays in Ukraine are the New Year and the Orthodox Christmas. These days people make presents, visit their families and friends and simply have great time


What does the New Year mean for Ukrainians? People over 30 will say that the New Year is about family, Christmas tree and the smell of tangerines. People under 30 will say that winter holidays are about loud celebrations, alcohol, parties and trips outside the city. But all ages share one thing winter holidays are about belief in miracles. On the night of December 31 / January 1 everyone is optimistic.

Of course, this is a major holiday and it requires you serious preparation. First of all, you have to decide where to celebrate the holiday traditionally at home or together with the Ukrainian people on the streets.

Every year, thousands of Ukrainians welcomed the New Year in the central square of the country Maidan Nezalezhnosti. However, due to the tragic events of the last year, Kyiv officials decided that it is not a place for fun and moved festivities to the St. Sophia Cathedral.

Celebration by the St. Sophia starts on December 19 and will last for one month. The organizers promise that it will be interesting for both children and adults. The whole territory allocated for the feast will be divided into several areas. The biggest part will be taken by the residence of St. Nicholas (Ukrainian Santa Claus). Santa will meet children, ask them if they were naughty or nice, and will invite children to slide a fivemeter ice run. There will be master classes: weaving of angels, charms, Christmas tree decorations, wood carving, baking gingerbread and honey cakes.

There you will also see the big Christmas tree (25 m). It will be decorated with 100,000 LED lights and 3 km of garlands. Approximately 2,000 white birds will be the main decoration of the Christmas tree. They symbolize the struggle between good and evil. On December 31 there will be hundreds of people, but there is no need to be afraid, because the atmosphere will be very friendly.

The only important thing to keep in mind is that some of the streets in downtown will be closed and therefore it will be hard to get there by car. There is also no need be in a hurry to go home. Public transport will run till 2 3 am.

In case you decide to celebrate the New Year at home, call your friends and family, remember on this night meals turn into something sacred. There should be a lot of dishes. Whatever you decide to cook, a mandatory attribute is the Olivier salad. It is made of diced potatoes, carrots, pickles, boiled eggs and sausage seasoned with a good portion of mayonnaise. In addition to champagne and tangerines the New Year table has to have kholodets (aspic of cold beef broth with chunks of meat, which is traditionally eaten with horseradish or mustard) and what is known in the West as Russian salad. It is made of boiled beets, potatoes, carrots and pickles, onions, green peas, and often sauerkraut, seasoned with sunflower oil. A good idea is to make a green salad in such a manner you will tribute the symbols of the coming year goat and rabbit.

It is clear that a festive table needs plenty of food products. And it is most likely that you will be unable to buy everything you need at a time. So do not leave everything to the last minute and go to the supermarket in advance a few days before the New Year grocery departments turn into hell.

Yet you can buy the Christmas tree the main symbol of the holiday on December 31. While on any other day a medium size tree you will cost approximately UAH 400, on the New Years Eve to get rid of the remaining ones the vendors will cut their price at least twice. And an hour before the beginning of the festivities the trees will be simply left on the streets and you can pick one free of charge.

So, if the tree is dressed up, and the guests are sitting at the table, you have to wait for the traditional greetings from the President of Ukraine (even the most apolitical citizens listen to the address on TV) and then the midnight. During 12 strokes of the clock you need to open a bottle of champagne and pour it into glasses. While some people are engaged in drinking, the most snappy manage to write their wishes on small pieces of paper, burn them and throw the ashes into their glasses. Then everyone congratulates each other and wishes a happy New Year.

And, perhaps, the most important thing. Remember that after all of the above oddities comes the most important time. People start opening their gifts, sincerely thanking each other and hoping to live in a different, probably more successful and good New Year.


In Ukraine Christmas celebrations start on Christmas Eve called Svyatvechir January 6. The evening meal on that day is accompanied by many traditions and customs. During forty days before Christmas religious people are fasting. And during the whole day people are not allowed to eat or drink. Christmas dinner is their first meal. People are allowed to sit at the table with the appearance of the first star in the sky, in memory of the Star of Bethlehem, which told the shepherds of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The main dishes this evening are kutya wheat or rice porridge with honey, poppy seeds and raisins, and uzvar traditional Ukrainian drink made of boiled dried fruits. In total there shall be 12 lenten dishes. For example: vegetable soup, peas, cabbage soup, fish dishes, dumplings, buckwheat, cabbage rolls with rice, lean pancakes and mushrooms.

Big family dinner is cooked for Christmas (January 7). The fast is over, so there can be a variety of meat dishes on the table: homemade sausages, duck stuffed with apples and buckwheat, roasted suckling pig, kruchenyky (roaster meat rolls), salo, meat pies, etc.

In Ukraine, on the first day of Christmas people usually stay home. But in the evening on January 7 do not be surprised if children in Ukrainian national costumes start ringing your doorbell. They just want to sing some kolyadky (Christmas carols) traditional ceremonial songs wishing people wealth and good health. Do not be surprised if they will sow your apartment with some cereals it is done so that the next year is fruitful. It is customary to thank children with sweets or money.

This time of the year it is also customary to walk the goat, which means the whole evening people go from one pub to another, from one friends place to another. The thing is that the constant change of atmosphere and frequent walks allow alcohol to wear off a bit and digest all ingested food.

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