In just few days many Ukrainians will celebrate Orthodox Christmas. In Ukraine Christmas is the most important family holiday of the whole year full of very interesting ancient traditions and rituals. One of the most known Christmas tradition in Ukraine is bringing the «Dudukh» home for Christmas Eve dinner. If you happen to be in Ukraine (especially Western part of the country) for Christmas, you will definitely see many Didukhs in various forms and shapes on the streets, in the restaurants and hotels as well as homes of many locals. «Destinations» would like to tell you a short story of this ancient local tradition.
Christmas 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, traditional Ukrainian Christmas ornaments made from a sheaf of wheat, is a symbolic sacrifice taken from the best of the autumn harvest. It is also the main Christmas symbol. Sometimes it is called as didochok or snip-rai (paradise sheaf). It is considered to be the embodiment of the ancestor’s spirit and race memory. This ancient ritual confirms the ancestors’ great honor and respect for their pedigree. Didukh is the symbol of fertile harvest, peace and wealth.
Diduh was made from the first or the last sheaf. On the eve of the holiday ritual stems sheaf formed several bundles, tied their straw or colored threads. Then these segments were added together and twisted around by ribbons. Before the Christmas Eve dinner begins (in Ukraine it’s the 6th of January) the host brings Didukh to the house and puts it at the holiest place with the icons called in Ukraine «pokut». It was in the house until the New Year or to Epiphany.
The room where Christmas dinner is eaten normally has a Didukh decoration placed in it. These days modern Ukrainian families just put some heads of wheat in a vase rather than a whole sheaf of wheat. One of the most beautiful Didukhs is traditionally put on the central square of Lviv (in 2018, Didukh will be put on January 6th at noon).
Read: Traditional Ukrainian Christmas Dishes