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Christmas traditions of different regions of Ukraine: how they celebrate one of the main holidays of the year

Yulia PoteriankoNews
Ukrainian carolers follow different traditions

The move to a new date for celebrating Christmas in Ukraine has rekindled interest in local holiday traditions. After all, Ukraine is a large country, and some of the peculiarities of the celebration can be very different in the Carpathians and Polissya, in Slobozhanshchyna and the Black Sea region.

OBOZ.UA asked how Christmas is celebrated in different parts of our country. And he tells us about the rituals and customs that have become entrenched in the people.

Festive dinner and kutia

It is a common tradition in our country to cook 12 meatless dishes for Christmas dinner, the main one being kutia, a porridge made of grain and flavored with honey. But, for example, in Polissia, there was no such diversity on the table - it was important to simply prepare a festive dinner, and the number of dishes was not emphasized.

Kutia was based on different grains in different regions. Most often, of course, it was wheat. But in Polissia, barley was preferred, while in the eastern regions, the festive porridge was made from rice, and dumplings were served with it. Meanwhile, in the lowland regions of Zakarpattia, instead of kutia, they cook bobalky, baked and then steamed dough balls topped with poppy seeds or nuts. They are traditionally the first course of a Christmas dinner.

In the highlands of the Carpathians, a festive loaf called karachun is baked for the holiday, which is the same name as Christmas Eve itself. Karachun is served with kutia, which are the two main holiday dishes. And in Galicia and Lemkivshchyna, a bowl of honey was always put on the table, on which a proskurka brought from church was placed.

Usually, people sit down to dinner on Christmas Eve when the first star appears in the sky. But in Bukovyna, the family gathers at the table even earlier. This way, the time for caroling will come faster and the children will not be so afraid to go from house to house to sing ritual songs.

Decorating the house

In Galicia, particularly in the Lviv region, it is a tradition to weave spiders out of straw for Christmas. It is believed that spiders hid the Virgin Mary and the newborn Jesus from Herod's soldiers who tried to kill the Savior, so this decoration serves as a home amulet.

Straw was also used as a decoration in Polissia. There, children used to tie it around the trunks of pear trees to bring a good harvest of fruit.

A somewhat strange holiday decoration was the plow or yoke that people in Galicia brought into their homes for the holiday. It was believed that this was supposed to bring happiness and wealth to the family.

Treats and caroling

In southern Ukraine, it was customary for children to bring treats to their godparents on Christmas Day. They would put kutia, kalach, and sweets in a basket. In return, the children would receive some kind of reward-small change or treats.

In the Kyiv and Cherkasy regions, the mother of the family had to put a bowl of kutia on the mantel and then lightly pinch her children's bangs, saying "chub-chub." This is also a pagan rite for prosperity, which is supposed to make hens lay a lot of eggs and make the chickens crested next year.

Caroling also takes place in different regions according to different traditions. In Pokuttia, the ritual was performed right on Christmas Eve, right after dinner. And in the Hutsul and Slobozhanshchyna regions, people started going from house to house singing songs on Christmas morning after the church service. In any case, it was believed that the more carolers who visited a home, the happier the year would be for the family.

In western Ukraine, in addition to carols, a whole Christmas performance was performed. Children and young people would dress up in costumes and reenact the story of Christ's birth and related stories. This Christmas performance is called a nativity scene. The tradition has survived to this day, and on Christmas days in Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk or Ternopil you can meet groups of young people in strange costumes and always with a big star on a stick - this is one of the main attributes of the nativity scene and the Christmas holiday in general.

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