As you all over in America are winding up your holiday season, we are in mid-swing over here in Ukraine. The winter holidays began on December 19th with St. Nicholas Day. This is when presents, including toys, sweets and especially oranges, are given to children by St. Nicholas. They are placed under their pillows. This would be the closest thing to the American Santa Clause. However, this day is separate from Christmas. It is a small celebration with no time off from work or school.
Then there is New Year’s Eve (lots of big celebrations), followed by New Year’s Day (the streets are empty and the stores are closed). We have been told this is the only holiday that has never been effected by religion or politics and that is why it is given so much attention with lots of time and energy devoted to parties and gatherings. They have New Year’s trees instead of Christmas trees and traditionally they are put up and decorated on New Year’s Eve. Nowadays, you will find them being sold starting around December 25th, at least in the markets. The larger stores had them out before our Thanksgiving. YUCK! – too early. This is another gift giving holiday.
The season comes to an end with Christ’s birth on January 7th, also known as Christmas. Christmas Eve is when the family gathers with a Holy Supper, to celebrate God, family and the rememberance of ancestors. It is a twelve course meal.
Christmas Day has another large meal and is all about family, and another gift giving day.
January 8th is when things begin to return to ‘normal.’ At least this is when David and I and all of our students return to University. There is one more holiday, the celebration of the old New Year, which comes on January 14th. However, this celebration is not quite as large as the date is from the old Julian Calendar and seems to be losing popularity among the younger generations (we use the Gregorian calendar in America). We have been told the holiday season officially ends after the old New Year.
Because David and I began our holidays as any good American would, with Thanksgiving, we are currently just about holidayed out. We are having one last large lunch at our house on Monday (1/5) with all of our Asian classmates. They are bringing Asian food, we are cooking bean soup and we will see what becomes of this gathering. It should be tons of fun with lots of laughter.
The following link elaborates a little more on Ukrainian holiday traditions, and the pictures show our Christmas Day (Dec 25th). Enjoy!