January 1 New Year
New Year is celebrated on the eve of January 1. New Year’s Eve is a time for merriment. It is a favorite holiday for most Ukrainians. People spend the end of the old year and the beginning of the New Year celebrating with friends or relatives. It is the holiday of hopes and expectations. The main folk heroes of this holiday are Did Moroz (Father Frost) and his grand-daughter “Sniguron’ka” (The Snow Girl). People decorate the New Year tree, have parties and prepare presents for their relatives and friends. Traditionally just prior to midnight the President’s speech to his nation is broadcast. When the clock strikes midnight, people pop open their champagne bottles, raise a toast, congratulate each other and say “Happy New Year!”. There is a peculiar tradition when people write down on a piece of paper their wish for the coming year, then drop it into champagne and drink it as the clock strikes twelve.
January 7 Christmas
Christmas is celebrated on January 7 according to the Gregorian calendar. It’s the day of Jesus Christ’s birthday and is also called Kolyada. In most parts of Ukraine on Christmas Eve people create so-called “Vertep”, which shows the scenes of Jesus birth from Bible. Christmas is the most beloved holiday among Ukrainians and the family gathers for a holy supper of 12 symbolic dishes, the main of which is Kutya (a dish of poppy seeds, honey, kernels, sometimes raisins and walnuts. Christmas Eve (or Svyata Vecherya) begins with the rise o the first star in the sky. Traditionally, the father brings in the “snip”, a handpicked wheat sheaf that represents the spirit of ancestors, and put it in the corner of a room, everybody sits at the table, say prayers and have their Holy Supper. On this day people also sing carols.
January 13 Old New Year’s Day
On January 13 people in Ukraine celebrate Old New Year’s Day. The emergence of this holiday is connected with the fact that there was a mistake in the Gregorian calendar that was used for a long time. After the 1917 Revolution, Ukraine switched to the western calendar; before that Ukraine was 13 days behind the rest of the world. On Old New Year’s day people take “Diduh”(a wisp of oats), which stays in the house since Christmas, burn it out of doors and jump over it so that people are healthy. However, some people refuse to celebrate it.
February 14 St. Valentine’s Day
St. Valentine’s Day is a new holiday and Ukrainians began to celebrate it not long ago. It’s the day of people who are fallen in love with each other, a day when we give special cards with greetings and gifts to our sweethearts. Everyone tries to shows all her or his love to the beloved person. This traditional holiday came into Ukraine from the English-speaking countries. So it doesn’t differ much in celebrating from other countries.
February 23 Former Red Army Day
During the Soviet Union, this holiday was for all who had ever served in the military. Since about most men were in some way connected with the Red Army, it simply became a holiday for men. In this day women congratulate their male relatives and friends, especially fathers and husbands or boyfriend and make some presents to them. Women wish them to be strong, courageous and real defenders.
March 8 Women’s Day
On March 8 we celebrate Women’s Day. This date was introduced in 1910 as a day of the international solidarity of women in their struggle for economic, political and social equality. But nowadays it has lost its political content and became just the day when men and boys congratulate women and thank them for everything they do about the house and at work and say good wishes. Men present small gifts, chocolate and flowers to their wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, female friends and colleagues. At least this day women are free from cooking and cleaning. Women’s Day is a wonderful day of womanhood, love and flowers, that makes every woman feel special.
April 1 Fool’s Day
April Fool’s day named from the custom of playing practical jokes or sending on fool’s errands is celebrated on April the 1-st. It is the day when people play tricks with their friend or acquaintances, crack jokes and put the others in a funny situation. It is the day of laughing when everybody has fun.
Eater is the chief Christian feast. It is the holiday of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, who died on the Cross for our salvation and rose from the dead. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full Moon that coincides with, or comes after, the spring equinox on March 21. This holiday starts with people’s coming to the church. They go to churches for a festive church service. The priest greets the congregation repeating many times over: “Christ is risen!” and the congregation replies in chorus “Indeed He is risen!”. During the day people visit relatives and closest friends and present them with Easter basket, which contains Easter cake (“paskha”), Easter eggs(“pysanky”), ham, butter and some other products, which are believed to posses a spiritual power. The Easter egg is the most popular emblem of the religious holiday. Everybody greets each other with “Christ is risen”, and then follows the answer “Indeed He is risen!”.
May 1 Labor Day
Labor Day is one of the spring holidays in Ukraine. Earlier it was one of the greatest holidays of the year – with colorful demonstrations and celebration of the workers and kolkhozniks, or collective farmers. It was obligatory for everyone to visit parades and demonstrations. And nowadays, Labor Day is more like another remnant of Communism. People just have a day-off, they stay at home and rest. On the 1st of May Ukrainians also celebrate the holiday of spring, nature awakening and beauty.
May 9 Victory Day
The 9-th of May is a Victory Day, the holiday of victory over fascist invaders. It is a very important holiday for all the Ukrainians, while you hardly find a family, which had not suffer from Nazis in the World War II. While preparing for this day numerous monuments to the Great Patriotic War (World War II) are cleaned up. People lay flowers to the war memorials, to the tombs of the unknown soldiers and people who died in the war. The commemorative meetings are held all over the country. War veterans are greeted and in the evening you may see a salute and fireworks.
Kyiv Day is usually celebrated on the last weekend of May. During two days various concerts of famous singers, bangs and performances of popular actors and musicians are held on the main square of the city of Kyiv. Many people from suburbs and even other towns come to Kyiv to see all these, walk along nicely decorated streets and have a great time. The celebration of Kyiv Day is usually accomplished with fireworks at about 10 p.m.
Holy Trinity Day
After adoption of Christianity Green Holidays were also named as Holy Trinity Day. It is believed to be one of the greatest religious holidays next to Christmas and Easter and is celebrated on the fiftieth day after Easter. On this day people decorate their houses and apartments with greenery, such as linden or maple branches, which is a reminder of the new life that comes through baptism. People put branches at the window, doors, near icons and near gates. The wild flowers blessed on the festive church service are dried up and kept behind the icons, as they are believed to possess special spiritual powers and protect the house and family from illnesses and trouble.
June 28 Constitution Day
It is quite obvious that this holiday commemorates such an important for all the Ukrainians day as the adoption of the Ukrainian Constitution that took place on June 28, 1996. As this holiday is rather new there are no particular traditions of it’s celebrating. For example, in Kiev on the Constitution Day on Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square concerts of popular Ukrainian singers are held. Besides, on this day you are sure to hear the hymn of Ukraine, broadcast on radio or TV or sung by people in the street.
July 7 Ivan Kupala’s Day
Ivan Kupala’s Day is celebrated on the eve of July 7. On this day girls make wreaths of flowers often lit with candles on rivers. The wreaths flow and show whom the girls would marry. There is also an old tradition to look for the flower of fern which is believed to burst into bloom only on Ivan Kupala’s Night. People believe that the person who will find it will live a happy and a long life. Prosperity, luck, discernment and power will also befall on him. On Ivan Kupala’s Day youths will jump over the flames of bonfires.
August 24 Independence Day
On August 24, 1991 the Verkhovna Rada adopted the decree “On Declaration of Independence of Ukraine”. And Ukraine became an independent state. Independence Day became the major national holiday as it commemorates the completion of a long and hard struggle of the Ukrainian people for its freedom. While celebrating Independence Day there are many festivals and military parades. If you have a possibility, visit the performance of military orchestras. That is quite interesting. There are also held different concerts and the celebration ends with festive fireworks.