Ukrainians are no slouches when it comes to celebrations. Whatever the season, you’ll be able to join in the festivities and experience some of the best of Ukrainian culture. You can attend festivals celebrating jazz, food, wine, coffee, white nights, films, and more in various locations throughout the country. Here we’ll concentrate on some of the most popular annual observations of deeper significance. So what are you waiting for? Let’s learn about what awaits!
If you’re a fan of Christmas like we are, then you’ll be delighted to know you have a chance to celebrate Christmas a second time. In Ukraine, Greek-Catholic and Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7th with a large dinner and lasts three entire days. Usually Christmas celebrations start with the Lent Dinner of 12 meatless and milkless dishes on January 6. Christmas time is full of Christmas carols singing. The Ukrainian carol ‘Shchedryk’ is where the popular ‘Carol of the Bells’ came from.
January 13 - 14
Best described as a Ukrainian blend of Halloween and New Year’s, Malanka is a one-of-a-kind celebration. In keeping with the old Julian calendar, New Year’s doesn’t occur on January 1st. During the festivities, you can expect lots of food, drink, carolling, and good-natured pranks. Some communities have parades, concerts, and other public events for everyone to celebrate together. Rather than groups of carolers, you’ll see a travelling Christmas play, or vertep, where actors dress up in garish costumes and go door-to-door to give a nativitybased performance. Characters can be very different from region to region, but generally include a goat, bear, angel, and Malanka herself, loving daughter of an earth goddess of ancient legend.
Ukrainians end the winter holiday season with Epiphany. In the evening of January 18, the whole family gathers for a festive dinner with Lenten dishes. In addition to a general festive atmosphere with winter activities, people gather along frozen rivers over a cross-shaped hole in the ice to watch a local priest bless the water. After, people collect this holy water believed to have healing properties. This water is unique and remains fresh for months. The bravest souls submerge themselves in the water three times
Easter commemorates Christ’s Resurrection. Ukrainians take it one step further: celebrations last three days, but preparations begin much earlier. Everyone wears their most beautiful embroidered shirts, vyshyvankas. Paska, or baskets, are filled to the brim with tasty foods and given away to friends and family. Drivers circle around the church. And of course painted eggs, pysanka, are on full display. You can find thousands of painted eggs at the Pysanka Museum in Kolomyia or even make a pysanka by yourself during a pysanka-making master class.
Departure to Meadows
This is a tradition within the Ukrainian Carpathians when shepherds send their herds of cattle to pasture. You’ll find musicians dressed in bright traditional costumes playing Hutsul songs on handmade musical instruments. Traditionally, departure to meadows is accompanied by sounds of trembita. Trembita is the world’s longest musical instrument. And, of course, you can expect Hutsul food will be served.
Also known as St. John’s Day, this is an evening filled with bright events. Girls make wreaths from colorful flowers and couples jump through the fire. All these activities are accompanied by local music, songs, and melodies. If you have a Hutsul costume or at least some elements of it, you are welcome to join the Hutsul Karnaval, which starts in the evening and continues through the whole night. You can even look for a blooming fern which according to legends appears only on this magic night and brings wealth and happiness to those who find it.
Ukraine Independence Day
You’ll be hard pressed to find a person not donning their patriotic yellow and blue. One of the most popular ways of celebrating Independence Day is by climbing Hoverla, the highest mountain of Ukraine. Upon summiting, you’ll be greeted by a festive atmosphere and a beautiful view upon the Chornohora ridge. The other option of celebration is to join the national concert in the center of Yaremche. Don’t forget to wear the embroidered shirt to share the Ukrainian patriotic spirit.
Traditionally, September after the harvest has been the month for weddings in the Carpathians. Despite being a tourist, don’t be surprised to find yourself invited to participate in a real Hutsul wedding with traditional clothes, music, dance, food, and drink. Hutsul weddings are full of vivacious celebration. The bride and groom arrive on horseback at the church. A small coniferous tree, decorated with ribbons is the integral part of the celebration as well.
St. Nicholas Day
Unlike Christmas in the West, children and adults alike awake to find presents on December 19. In a unique twist, perhaps with the help of the tooth-fairy, presents are found underneath the pillows of the well-behaved. Bad-behaved can find a twig instead of a present. Thus, sometimes the St. Nicholas is so inventive and creative that makes you look for a present somewhere in the house or even in the yard.