Most popular and beloved winter holiday in the Western Ukraine has been conquering the attention in other regions of Ukraine recently. St. Nicholas, the Ukrainian version of Santa Clause, brings something more than just presents for kids, St. Nicholas day marks the beginning of the winter holiday season in Ukraine.
St. Nicholas Day is a very special holiday for Ukrainian children and adults. In Ukraine and other Eastern Christian countries it is celebrated on December 19 (unlike Western Christian countries, where it is celebrated on December, 6). Tradition to celebrate St. Nicholas Day came to Ukraine with the Christianity during the rule of the prince Vsevolod Yaroslavovich (years 1088-1089). Saint Nicholas always considered to be patron saint for children.
St. Nicholas Day had been one of the main holidays in Western Ukraine for many centuries. The tradition of giving gifts to children, relatives and those in need was specifically celebrated on December 19 (St. Nicholas Day) and not Christmas or New Year.
Shortly before the holiday Ukrainian children (often with the help of their parents) write letters to Saint Nicholas in which all their dearest wishes are listed – material (new toys or other goods) and spiritual (health and happiness for parents, relatives and friends) ones. The fulfillment of the material wish depends on the child’s behavior during the year. For those who behaved well St. Nicholas would definitely prepare the present, and even for those who did not, there would be something pleasant (sweets, for example) in case of promise to make good.
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St. Nicholas Day presents can be different. It is up to parents to decide what gift to put under the child’s pillow (sweets, a toy, a book etc.). Of course, most of the parents consider their children wishes when they choose a gift.
This holiday is often associated with numerous charity events, fundraisers and gift drives for orphaned children and people who found themselves in need. In Western Ukraine there is a good tradition of putting a wish-tree in the local churches with letters from orphans and their wishes for St. Nicholas day gifts attached to the trees’ branches. All the willing parishioners can take a letter from the tree and arrange a gift for the child who doesn’t have parents to support all his/her gift wishes.
Women bake for this day round cookies called ‘mykolaychyky’ with different fillings and decorations. These cookies are put under the children pillows as sweet presents for the holiday and are given to all the friends and relatives wishing joy and health.
Photo: pinterest.com, traditional St.Nicholas Day cookies
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St. Nicholas' Day was a time of great fun in Ukraine. On this day, people would invite guests and have family dinners. St. Nicholas Day in Ukraine is a really bright and joyful holiday. Parents and grandparents tell the children story of St. Nicholas life and teach them to be as kind, laborious, charitable, honest as Saint Nicholas was. Ukrainians believe that in the night of December 19 all their sincere wishes will be heard and fulfilled.