New Year and especially Christmas are most popular and most beloved holidays in Ukraine. Both have a long history and a special set of traditions and rituals, all of which allow exploring a unique Ukrainian cultural identity that miraculously survived on the outskirts of modern Europe.
For the Ukrainians Christmas is the most important family holiday of the whole year. It is celebrated solemnly, as well as merrily, according to ancient customs that have come down through the ages and are still observed today. Ukrainian Christmas customs are based not only on Christian traditions, but, to a great degree, on those of the pre-Christian, pagan culture and religion. The Ukrainian society was basically agrarian at that time and had developed an appropriate pagan culture, elements of which have survived to this day.
Read: Ukrainian Christmas 2018
Didukh is a pre-Christian detail of traditional Ukrainian Christmas dinner decorations. The room where Christmas dinner is eaten normally has a Didukh decoration placed in it. The Didukh is made from a sheaf of wheat and it symbolizes the large wheat field in Ukraine. It literally means 'grandfather spirit' and can represent people's ancestors being with them in their memories. These days modern Ukrainian families just put some heads of wheat in a vase rather than a whole sheaf of wheat.
Ukrainian embroidery takes the special place among other Ukrainian decorative arts. These days many Ukrainian families, especially in Western Ukraine, decorate their homes for Christmas with traditional embroidered tablecloths and towels. Often these items are rather old family relics, preserved from generation to generation. Many Ukrainians also wear their embroidered shirts when gathering together at the festive Christmas table and visiting morning Christmas mass in church.
Christmas star is also considered to be the quintessential Christmas ornament and decoration in Ukraine. The Christmas Eve Supper or Sviata Vecheria (Holy Supper) brings the family together to partake in special foods and begin the holiday with many customs and traditions, which reach back to antiquity. You can't start eating the meal until the first star is seen in the sky. The star symbolizes Christ’s birth. Handmade Christmas star on a stake is also the centerpiece of Vertep, the Ukrainian Christmas puppet theater.
Read: Traditional Ukrainian Christmas Dishes
Christmas celebration in Ukraine has a long history and a vivid set of traditions and rituals, all of which include many interesting traditional ornaments and decorations.