JANUARY 1. NEW YEAR’S DAY
This is one of the favorite holidays in Ukraine. Before New Year Eve (December 31) Ukrainians decorate their houses and New Year trees (the equivalent of Christmas trees for most countries), buy gifts for family members, friends, and colleges, and cook some delicious festive meals. The major celebrations start around midnight. This could be a calm family dinner, a fun party with friend or even celebration with thousands of strangers somewhere in a city park or city square.
The most important guests who bring gift to children are Ded Moroz (similar to Santa Claus) and his granddaughter Snegurochka.
January 1 is a public holiday when most public institutions are closed and the celebrations are going on.
JANUARY 6-7. ORTHODOX CHRISTMAS
Christmas celebration starts with the Holy Evening (aka Holy Supper) on Christmas Eve, 6 January. Traditionally there are at least 12 different dishes on the table where Kutia is the first and the most important one. Kutia is a special Christmas dish from wheat grains (sometimes rise or barley grains), poppy seeds, honey, and raisins. The most religious Ukrainians go to church for the overnight Christmas service.
In smaller towns people still go from house to house wearing carnival costumes and singing kolyadky, traditional Christmas carols.
On January 7 the Christmas week starts. It is a time to meet family and friends. Children are supposed to visit their godparents during the holiday.
JANUARY 13-14. OLD NEW YEAR
While it may sound weird for foreigners many Ukrainians celebrate Old New Year. Although the holiday is not that popular as the New Ear itself and it is not a public holiday the celebration starts on January 13 evening and symbolizes the beginning of the year according to the old Julian calendar.
JANUARY 19. BAPTISM OF JESUS (EPIPHANY)
The holiday ends the season of winter holidays. For eastern Orthodox followers this day is considered to be the day Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, and the water is believed to get healing effect. People bring water to church for blessing and plunge into springs, lakes and rivers be it freezing cold or sunshine.
JANUARY 25. SAINT TATIANA DAY (ALSO KNOWN AS STUDENTS’ DAY)
Since 1755 Saint Tatiana is commemorated as a patron of all the students. Although the holiday takes its roots in Russia during tsar times it is one of the most favorite holidays for Ukrainian youth. On this day various parties and celebrations are hold in universities, clubs and just in the streets.
FEBRUARY 14. ST. VALENTINE’S DAY
St Valentine’s Day is not a traditional holiday in Ukraine but it is a well-liked day to spend some special time with the loved ones and friend. As the holiday was adapted from Western culture its celebration does not differ from traditions throughout Europe and the USA.
During the last week before Great Lent (the seventh week before Eastern Orthodox Easter) Ukrainians celebrate Maslenitsa. The origin of the festival has its roots in both pagan and Christian traditions. From one side it symbolizes the beginning of spring, from other side it is the time to prepare oneself for Great Lent.
The main symbol of Maslenitsa is bliny (thing pancakes or crepes). They are cooked and eaten in different variations with various stuffing (besides meat for those who follow Christian traditions).
The culmination of the holiday is Sunday when festive celebrations are organized and a huge straw doll (Maslentisa) is burned as a symbol of the end of winter. For religious people it is also Forgiveness Sunday when everybody asks for forgiveness and forgives.
Orthodox Easter is a public holiday and a day off in Ukraine. The date of celebration is not fixed and depends on the full Moon and the vernal equinox. Usually it is one of the April Sundays but it can be in March or in May. Sometimes (but not always) it is the same day with the Easter for Western Christians.
The Easter day is filled with many religious rituals and symbols. The most important are the overnight service in churches, traditional Easter bread (kulich), painted (pysankas) and dyed (krashankas) eggs.
On the last Sunday before Easter (Willow Sunday, aka Palm Sunday for Catholics) pussy-willow branches are blessed in churches. The whole next week is busy with preparation for the holy day when all the work should be finished before Pure (Clean) Thursday.
On Easter Sunday morning baskets with Easter breads, decorated eggs and some other food are blessed in the church and taken home for the breakfast.
MARCH 8. INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
Started as a holiday with some political meaning behind the holiday has become an integral part of the modern Ukrainian culture. This is the day for men to express love and attention to their mothers, wives, daughters, female friends and colleges.
APRIL 1. APRIL FOOL’S DAY (HUMOR DAY OR DAY OF LAUGHTER)
This is a day for playing jokes and pranks on family members, friends and colleges. The Ukrainian city of Odessa is the best place to spend the holiday as the city hosts Humorina, a festival of humor with costumed parades and other fun outdoor performances.
MAY 1-2. LABOR DAY
Nowadays Labor Day has lost its original meaning but it is still a state holiday. For most Ukrainians it is a great time to get together with family members or friends and go outside the city for a picnic.
MAY 8-9. VICTORY DAY
A day for happiness and sadness at the same time. This day is a memorial day to commemorate people who lost their lives during the Second World War and to remember the people who made it sure that life could go on despite all the pain and the suffering they had to endure. On this day people go to monuments dedicated to the soldiers and greet those who are still alive.
JUNE 1. INTERNATIONAL CHILD PROTECTION DAY
The day is dedicated to children and the joys of childhood. On this day many different events and festivals are organized specially for kids.
JUNE 6. IVAN KUPALA DAY
Night festivals are organized to celebrate the summer solstice. The most important traditions include jumping over bonfires and signing traditional songs. Girls make flower garlands and wreath and everyone tries to find a fern flower. On this day water and fire can bring away all sadness and sickness.
HOLY TRINITY DAY (50 DAYS AFTER EASTER)
On this day (also known as Green Sunday) Ukrainians decorate their houses with various herbs. This is also another special day to remember people who have passed away, visit their graves and pray for them.
JUNE 28. CONSTITUTION DAY
The day is dedicated to the Constitution of Ukraine that was signed in 1996 after Ukraine got it independence. Great parades, impressive fireworks and other celebrations are hold all over Ukraine.
AUGUST 24. INDEPENDENCE DAY
This is a public holiday when the whole country celebrates the Declaration of Independence that was announced in 1991. The celebration includes official meetings, concerts, parades and fireworks across the country.
SEPTEMBER 1. KNOWLEDGE DAY
The day for the students to start their studies after summer vacations. Some special celebrations are usually organized in schools and universities especially for the first and the last year students.
THE FIRST SUNDAY IN OCTOBER – TEACHER’S DAY
Although the holiday is on Sunday it is usually celebrated on Friday before the day. Usually teachers are given flowers and some celebrations are organized by students and their parents to express their appreciation.
DECEMBER 19 ST. NICHOLAS DAY
St. Nicholas (Ukrainian Santa Claus) is one of the most popular characters in Ukrainian culture. His main responsibility is to bring gifts for kids. Although it is not a state holiday festivals are hold to entertain children and adults.