Christmas is an important holiday in Ukraine and people in the country usually value this time as it is a perfect time for bonding with friends and family. 

Christmas Eve or sviata vecheria, as it is commonly known across Ukraine is an ideal time for family members to meet and interact as they eat various amazing dishes. Some customs and traditions are popular across the country and the rituals that are carried out during this period are dedicated to the welfare of the family, God, and the remembrance of the ancestors.

In the traditional Christmas festivities, they usually begin from December 24th through January 6. Christmas celebrations were less in Ukraine for the majority of the part in the 20th century because of Soviet rule. However, when Soviet rule fell the local people began embracing Christmas and the traditions associated with it.

Christmas customs and traditions in Ukraine

In the early 20th century, the country moved from the atheist Soviet rule, and the local people began embracing the culture, diversity as well and the unique Christian traditions of Christmas.

The Christmas tree was repurposed into the New Year’s fir tree, and you are going to find people from different backgrounds enjoying this period. There are traditional Ukrainian traditions such as Christmas decorations and Ded Moroz as well as other features.

When is Christmas celebrated in Ukraine?

Kiev during winter.

The people of Ukraine have different days of celebrating Christmas depending on the region. Christmas Day by the Gregorian calendar is an official government holiday and the Eastern Orthodox Christians who celebrate Christmas on January 7 also get to celebrate their holiday on January 7. 

There are still studies, research, and public participation that are being carried out around the country as they look for the final holiday that they can celebrate Christmas. December 25 has been proposed and many people prefer this day as it was celebrated across the country in the ancient period as well.

Sviatyi Vechir

This is commonly called the Holy Evening and it is usually celebrated on December 24. Many rituals and customs are associated with this day. It is a common tradition to decorate the house and put a dinner table that will be enough for all family members and friends.

Some of the common attributes on the dinner table include hay, garlic, and a wheat called didukh. The hay that is put on the table is a symbol of the hay that Jesus was born in. The white cloth symbolizes a covering that Jesus was covered with on his birth in the manger. The supper is special because people will make special prayers for the Christmas season as well as the new year.

There are various people around the country who fast during this period, and they will have breakfast in the evening when they see the first star in the sky.  

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During the dinner on December 24, family members will come together at a table and feast on twelve dishes. The twelve dishes are a common traditional method of food that is prepared during this period. The common dishes that are prepared during this period are mostly vegan and do not contain eggs, meat, and milk. 

The most common dishes are kutsia and uzvar, which are considered compulsory dishes. Kutia is a dish made of grain, poppy seeds, and honey and it is served as the first meal after the fasting period is over. They usually spread some to the ceiling and whichever sticks is a good indicator of bumper harvest in the coming year.

On the other hand, uzvar is a beverage made from berries and cooked dried fruits. It can be mixed with Kutia or consumed as it is, with the range of dishes ranging from one form to another from one family to another.


Once the holy evening dinner is finished, there is a vigil that follows it, and the family will participate in reciting Christmas poems and singing Christmas carols. In many ancient Ukrainian communities, you will find that the young men or boys in the family will gather and dress up in costumes before they can go and sing Christmas songs from one house to another. 

The rewards given to the boys include sweets, candies, and money. The money that they get during this period is used to purchase Christmas presents.


This is a common tradition across Ukraine that you will find the people who value grandfather or didukh. It is believed that the head of the family will bring a sheaf of grain called didukh to the grandfather for the rich crops they harvested in the previous year. 

Didukh is a grandfather spirit, and it enhances the outlook the people have about the culture and tradition around Ukraine. He is a symbol of the ancestors and whenever the people present the gifts to the grandfather spirits, they will then allow them to have a bumper harvest in the new year. 

Nativity scenes in Ukraine

Perhaps one of the most outstanding features of Christmas in Ukraine is the nativity scene. Shopko or vertep is a traditional portable nativity scene and other figurines that you are going to find here. 

The Christmas spirit is usually high in Ukraine, and you will find nativity scenes around the major cities around the country and even in the villages. Orthodox Christianity is more common around the region.

Christmas Eve in Ukraine

Christmas Eve is usually marked by family members gathering around the Christmas table as they participate in Christmas Eve dinner. The festivities usually begin when they see the evening star and for people who have been fasting, they will then break their fast with a local smoothie or porridge. 

In most cases, you will find that the families usually serve twelve dishes, and this is a symbol of the twelve apostles of Christ. The main dish is Kutia. There is always an empty plate that is left during the feast, and this is to allow the ancestors to participate in the Christmas tradition. 

Once the people have finished their dinner, they will then go to Christmas mass, or midnight mass as it is commonly called in different parts of the country. Gifts are exchanged during this period and the carolers join in with songs and poems.

Christmas symbols in Ukraine

The table is often covered with two tablecloths and the first one is for the ancestors while the other is for the ancestors. During the ancient period and paganism, they usually considered the ancestors as benevolent spirits. When they were respected, they would bring good health, luck, and bumper harvest in the upcoming year. 

The kolach or Christmas bread is usually placed under the center of the table and the bread usually has a ring baked into it.  There are three rings, each symbolizing the Holy Trinity. Kutia is often served during this period, and it is the most important food. It is served with uzvar which is a drink that is made up of twelve fruits. 

Each member of the family is then given uzvar as they enjoy their dinner. There is a prayer said before serving the uzvar. When the dish is served, they will then check their bread and whenever they get the ring, they will host next year’s Christmas Eve tradition.

Some of the common dishes that you are going to find include vushka, which are dumplings filled with onions and chopped mushrooms, and beet soup. These dishes are then followed by a wide array of fish-related dishes such as cod in aspic, fried fish, baked fish, marinated herrings, and fish stew.

Caroling in Ukraine

Many households in Ukraine usually have different customs and traditions but there is always joyful merrymaking and caroling here. The Ukrainian Christmas carols and songs date back to the ancient pagan traditions and with the introduction of Christianity to the country the people mixed the culture and incorporated it as well. 

There are two main groups during Christmas Eve, and you will find kaliady which are usually young boys singing from one place to another. On the other hand, the calendar consists of songs that are usually sung on Christmas Eve. This group is called shchedrivky and it is a common tradition around the country.

These celebrations usually have pagan traditions in them. In some regions, you are going to find that people celebrate St. Nicholas and St. George’s Day.

Caroling is an important part of the Christmas tradition in Ukraine. You are going to find people dressed in costumes and another one with a bag, this is the person who will collect the presents that they usually get during this period.

Two Christmases in Ukraine

The Christmas period in Ukraine is usually a perfect time for people to meet from various regions. People take their time to enjoy the period with your friends and family members. It is important to understand the Ukrainians usually have two Christmases – on December 25 and January 7.

Both of these days are public holidays. The dishes that are served during these two Christmases vary depending on the region, however, there are some common dishes that you will find in various parts of the country.

Holubtsi or cabbage rolls with mushrooms and rice are integral during the Christmas period in Ukraine and they are symbolic because they represent God’s love symbol.

Deruny or potato pancakes are some of the most important dishes. They include some paganism because they believe in the sun symbol and they are served round, yellow, and warm. However, with the adoption of Christianity, this has been changed to more Christian symbols.


Malanka is New Year’s Eve according to the Gregorian calendar. During this period the people often prepare for major celebrations around the country as they prepare to welcome the new year. Malanka is the first day that celebrates the Fest Day of St. Melania.

Let’s learn more about the Christmas traditions in the countries neighboring Ukraine:

Aurimas Bio

Hi there! I’m Aurimas, a man behind Go Look Explore. I’m passionate about hiking, exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations, and everything outdoors related. Let’s connect.