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Christmas Traditions of Ukraine

Snow capped trees
Celebrate the unique Christmas traditions of Ukraine with your partner. | Pexels

Well, it looks like you’re gone and done it. Or at the very least you’ve committed to the admirable effort of finding a Ukrainian girlfriend. You’ve decided that your soulmate is among the beautiful women of Ukraine, and you’ve gone out of your comfort zone in the pursuit of something special.

So things have been going your way, at least when it comes to romance. But now time has flown, as time is wont to do, and now it’s time to celebrate the holidays.

Which means you need to learn about a few of the Christmas traditions of Ukraine because you’re celebrating with her and you want her to feel comfortable and familiar things are great at making people feel comfortable.

There’s two Christmases.

The first thing that you need to know about Ukrainians is that, depending on their particular brand of faith, Christmas is celebrated either on the 25th of December for western-style Christians or on the 7th of January for Eastern Orthodox Christians. This is because of the differences between the Gregorian and Julian calendars.

So depending on your lady’s particular faith, you may find yourself having to celebrate Christmas twice. So that’s something that you’re going to have to be ready for if you didn’t already know that.

The centerpiece is a massive meal.

Christmas dinner is usually the centerpiece of any familial holiday celebration. Maybe your own family has a turkey or some pot roast. Maybe both, with some sides. But you sit down and all the food is already there. Maybe dessert gets brought out later because it is in the fridge just chilling.

But it’s a bit different in Ukraine. Instead of a massive meal that’s going to put you in a food coma, it’s twelve fasting meals to represent the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. Oh, and instead of a turkey or a pot roast being the centerpiece, the main course is kutia, which is a mix of boiled grains, nuts, honey, poppy seeds, and other toppings like dried fruits.

What are the 12 traditional Ukrainian dishes? Well, other dishes that you might find at the table include fish, potatoes, varenyky (Ukrainian dumplings), and a whole host of others. So if you’re thinking that you’re going to nosh on your usual Christmas feast, you’ve got another thing coming.

The act of preparing the food isn’t just something that’s done all willy-nilly the day of. Preparing the food is something that begins one or two days before the day itself.


A tradition that you might be more familiar with is koliada. Koliada is basically caroling. The participants dress up in traditional Ukrainian clothing and then go to the houses of neighbors, friends, and family members and serenades them with Christmas carols. In turn, they get little presents like sweets, fruit, or money.

So it’s basically the same as what you’re familiar with back home. The outfits and the songs may be different, but the overall framework is basically the exact same as the caroling back at home, wherever that is for you.

The Christmas Market

If you’re actually in Ukraine, you might find that the local town or city squares are lit up with Christmas lights and stalls or booths. This is a Christmas market and it was adapted by Ukrainians after observing the traditions and practices of the western European neighbors.

So if you are from a western European country or you’re familiar with the concept of a Christmas market, this particular practice won’t be all that foreign to you.


You’re probably familiar with that old story about Joseph and Mary and the manger and three Wise Men. If you’re not familiar with it because you didn’t grow up in a Christian household, Joseph and Mary couldn’t get a room anywhere so she had to give birth in a manger and three Wise Men following a star ended up at that manger and gave the baby boy gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

That scene is recreated in a wide variety of ways by Christians all over the world on Christmas because that event is kind of the whole point of Christmas. In Ukraine, they recreate a portable version of that scene using puppets.

Building covered in Christmas lights.
Celebrate Christmas the way of the women of Ukraine would. | Pexels


Another tradition that is still going to be relevant if you plan on marrying a Ukrainian woman but is not exactly Christmas but is still part of the season is Malanka. It combines Christian traditions with old Pagan beliefs and marks the start of the New Year from before the switch to the Gregorian from the Julian calendars.

People put on extremely elaborate costumes for Malanka, with some even getting as heavy as 100 kilograms (220 pounds). Sometimes, there are bear fights, and people swim in a river to purify themselves.

Masnytsia/Butter Week

At some point, all good things have to end. The holiday season in Ukraine has to end at some point and they commemorate that end with Masnytsia or Butter Week. It’s an ancient Slavic practice. This takes place in late February or early March.

During Butter Week, Ukrainians eat food like varynky, pancakes, syrnyky, which are pancakes made with cottage cheese, and other desserts.


When you’re putting your decorations for the holiday, you’re probably putting up lights, stockings, maybe an elf that sits upon a shelf. But the main event is the tree. You went to a tree farm to get it. You picked out the best one and then you decorated it the way your family taught you to. You topped it off with a star and you gently placed your presents under it.

That’s the centerpiece of your holiday decorations. The Christmas tree.

Ukraine has a tree of its own. It’s not a replacement for the Christmas tree, but it’s something that carries its own meaning. That tree is the Didukh. It’s made from a sheath of wheat and the word didukh translates to grandfather spirit.

The belief is that spirits of the family’s ancestors reside within the didukh during the holiday season, hence the translation.

You’ve probably got a few Christmas traditions. Maybe you watch your favorite Christmas movie or make a certain type of cake or pudding. Well, your Ukrainian woman has traditions of her own and while you may not be able to observe all of them, you can observe enough to make her feel that you’re in the relationship for the long haul.