Ukrainians love their numerous holidays and love to "celebrate" those holidays in grandeous fashion. It's not uncommon for Westerners to be taken aback at just how many "days of note" they observe, and the amount of fireworks and revelry that goes along with them, not to mention the vast amount of spirits consumed. (Check out some info about Horilka (Vodka) :) Ukraine's history that included Paganism and later Christianity can be attributed to the evolution of many of her current holidays and festivities.
State Holidays (banks are closed)
1 January - New Year's Day
It is one the most favorite of all holidays in Ukraine. As in Western countries on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians give "New Year" presents, Children receive their presents under the New Year Tree on the morning of the 1st of January. Traditionally just prior to midnight there's a Presidential speech broadcast nationally. When the clock strikes Midnight, people pop open thier champaign bottles and raise a toast. With the first glass they congratulate each other as the clock strikes 12 times and fireworks fill the sky. The week before the New Year is a busy one with shopping, parties at work, decorating pine and fir-trees, and cooking the years most delicious meals. The tradition of predicting fortunes on this night is very popular among young people.
A peculiar tradition includes writing down on a piece of paper your wish for the coming year, then dropping it in to your champagne and drinking it as the clock stikes twelve times. Another "fun" folk tradition pacticed mainly in the villages on New Year night is for the unmarried girls to go outside and throw one of thier boots over the Hosts' fence. Whichever way the toe of the boot ends up pointing indicates where the future husband will come from.
7 January - Orthodox Christmas
The period from the 7th until the 14th of January is Saint Christmas week. During this week people go from one house to another, singing songs and wishing good wishes to health, prosperity, etc. and just having a good time. Most usually are dressed in folksy or carnival type costumes. Such activity is called "Kolyaduvannya" and "Schedruvannya". The songs are called "kolyadky" and "schedrivky". When somebody is singing these songs and greeting you, as a rule you should give them sweets or food or drinks or whatever you have as a token of appreciation. It is believed that everything that the people have sung in their Kolyadka and Schedrivka will come true.
Also during the new year holidays, up to the 14th of January it is common for kids (and sometimes adults-in the villages) to go from one house to another wishing the owner of the house new year wishes, new happiness, health, etc. All those wishes are usually said in rhymes and with the spreading of seeds, such as wheat or other grains. This shows a wish of prosperity for the house. This practice is called "Posivannya". Some token, usualy food, drink, sweets, or money, is usualy given in return.
8 March - International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is considered the first Spring Holiday in Ukraine. It is an official day off.
It is also thought of as the "Day of Spring" and the "Day of all Women", mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, wives and girlfriends. Unlike Mother's Day "every" woman expects to receive flowers and gifts.
April - May - Orthodox Easter
Two weeks following the Catholic Easter Holiday is the main Christian Orthodox Holiday established to honor the Resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifiction on the cross and to the coming out of the Jews from Egypt. The date of Easter is usually determined by the Church calendar and calculated according to the so-called "Paskhalias" (the name for the "special tables".) Before and during Easter Ukrainians buy or bake Easter cakes (buisquits with raisins),and hand paint eggs widely known as Pysanka. It is a very important holiday. On Easter night people go to their local church, spending the entire night in Church services! Usually they take with them Easter cakes, painted eggs, and bottles of wine. In the morning (about 4 am) the service concludes with the clergyman sprinkling all food with sacred water which is believed to give strong healing powers. At this time people return home to continue the celebration with food and drink throughout the the day. The traditional greeting on this day is: "Khrystos Voskres!" (Christ is arisen) and the answer "Voyistynu Voskres!" (Truly arisen) followed with kisses and the exchanging of gifts.
50 days after Easter - Holy Trinity Day (Svyata Troyitsya)(or "Green Sunday")
This holiday is dedicated to the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of Christ (Easter). This event gave rise to Christianity. The meaning of the Holy Trinity is thus: God the Father laid the basis for the church in the Old Testament, the Son brought its meaning into words, and the Spirit acts within it. On this holiday people decorate their houses and apartments with Calamus (an herb) and assorted green branches.
This tradition comes from ancient Judaism, in which the Pentecost, the Feast of Harvest, was celebrated outside amongst flourishing Nature. On Holy Trinity Day people go to a cemetery to visit the tombs of relatives and friends who have passed away. In this holiday has emerged the custom of leaving food on the burial tombs of loved ones though no one claims it's significance or relavance to Christianity.
Traditionally people leave some vodka or other alcohol and something to eat along with it, such as a piece of bread or candy. It is considered a good sign to find that the food and drinks have disappeared upon your next trip to the cemetery! Holy Trinity Day is a very important religious holiday in Ukraine. Read more here
1st of May
The 1st of May historicaly has been the traditional holiday of Spring.
This holiday has become a celebration as the day of triumph for "Nature", from which is a full bloom with birds' singing, trees budding, and multicolored flowers painting the countryside. In this celebration people look forward to warm weather and the joys of summer.
28 June - Constitution Day
On this day in 1996 the Constitution of Independent Ukraine was adopted. Fireworks and various concerts and musical events are common throughout the country.
24 August - Independence Day
Independence Day is Ukraine's largest State holiday, which commemorates the adoption in 1991 of the "Declaration of Sovereignty" of Ukraine. Impressive fireworks displays and noteworthy concerts throughout the capital Kyiv and the rest of the country.
NOTE: If any of the above official holidays fall on Saturday or Sunday, it is customary for the following Monday to be an official public holiday also. The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine may also transfer Monday or Friday" work days" to the preceding or following Saturday ONLYif any of the above holidays fall on the corresponding Tuesday or Thursday.
14 January - Old Calendar New Year
Old Calendar New Year celebrated as a family holiday. See more above under 7 January - Orthodox Christmas.
22 January - Ukrainian Unity Day (Den Sobornosti)
Ukrainian Unity Day (Den Sobornosti) is an important historical event in Ukraine. It goes back to the date when Eastern and Western Ukraine were united. On this day in 1919 the "Treaty of Unity" between Ukrainians was signed and the unity of all Ukrainian lands previously belonging to the Russian Empire (UNR) and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was solemnly proclaimed on Sofijivska Square in Kyiv. "Den Sobornosti" is the symbol of territorial and spiritual unity of Ukraine as a unified sovereign state.
14 February - St. Valentine's Day
St. Valentine's Day inherited from Western culture, is now very popular in Ukraine.
1 April - Fool Day (the Day of laughter)
This holiday is celebrated everywhere in Ukraine with people attempting to get the best of each other through trickery and jokes. But nowhere is this holdiay taken more seriously than in Ukraines port city of Odessa where an impressive and light hearted parade is held annualy to celebrate both April Fools Day as well as Odessa itself as the "Humor Capital" of the CIS.
13 May - Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day is a day when Ukrainians express their love, respect, and appreciation to their Mothers.
Third weekend of May - Europe Day
On this weekend, Ukraine celebrates a day to show unity, respect and an opportunity to magnify the public will and determination to join the Union of European Nations. This holiday weekend is a major cultural event. The Central Squares of Kiev and other large cities of Ukraine host concerts, performances and shows highlighting European musicians, artists, along with European cuisine as well.
Last Sunday of May - Kyiv Day
Last Sunday of May - Kyiv Day - the beautiful capital of Ukraine celebrates her day. This is a time when chestnut trees - the symbolic tree of Kiev - are in full bloom and sporting their wonderfully eloquant "white candles". Spring is a great time to visit Ukraine's Capital Kyiv and see it with your own eyes.
1 June - International Child Protection Day
Children are the future of the mankind. And this day is their day. Kids right for life and dignity must be respected and defended. What is sunnier, joyful, and memorable than the childhood? A child gets to know the world with the help of adults, learns and finds out new interesting things. A child is happy when he is loved, warmed fed and understood. A lot of different concerts, shows and games are held on this day.
5 June – World Environmental Protection Day
6 July - Ivan Kupala Day
Ivan Kupala Day is one of the great and enigmatic holidays signifing a celebration in honour of the "God of the Sun" (or "Dazhbog"). It is belived that during this time of summer solstice, the sun is strongest, before turning to the winter. They say that the Sun is a personification of light, celebrating its victory over dark forces, so as it rises it's "playing", "leaping" and feeling joyful. All Nature is also joyful because of this, becoming special and charmed. The name of the holiday is bound to the name of "Kupajla", who is the "Divinity of Fertility",of the harvest, welfare and medicinal healing herbs and plants. Traditional ceremonies are timed so as to celebrate in honour of youth, beauty, love and purification.
On the 6th of July people set off for the gathering of medical hebs and plants. They gather healing herbs at dawn, far from the settlements and paths, all in a good mood and praying. Folklore has it that besides medical properties Kupal's'ki plants have a considerable magical effect. The main Kupal's'ki ceremonies were taking place at night 6 - 7 July. Kupala night is a special night.
Not only is it the most mysterious and enigmatic but also the most dissolute night of the year. The people believed that all Kupala's articles like chaplets, sprigs of sapling, ash, dew and other items had had not only healing properties but also considerable guarding forces from impure spirits as well as witches, which were thought to be very active on Kupala's night. All night long people keep Kupala bonfires burning, leaping over the flames, cleansing themselves of ill and bad luck.
The remnants of the bonfire are distributed to the participants, and maybe taken home, to protect against evil forces. It was considered a good sign for their future if young people, while jumping over the fire, would keep their hands locked and their clothes unsinged. Mothers burn shirts of ill children in the Kupala fire as illnesses are believed to burn away with it.
The next ceremony consists of purifying by another element. Water. Girls try to dive in the water in such a way, that a chaplet from their hair would float on the surface of the water. Sometimes girls were sending their own personal chaplet with candles alit floating to the other side of the river or lake as the young men would try to capture the chaplet of his favorite girl. If not able to reach it from shore, some would impatiently jump in the water and retrieve the girls chaplet. A kiss awaits the bearer of each chaplet.
Especially enigmatic were recitals relating to fern blossoms on Kupala night. In order to see it, you have to go at night to the fern bush to spread under it a linen or towel on which the Easter cake was sanctified. Next you must draw around yourself a circle with the knife sanctified in the Church, sprinkle the plant with sanctified water and read a prayer. Impure forces then try to drive away and scare the man ie; wind, noise, blowing small rocks and twigs. It will not, however, be able to overcome the outlined circle. This is why you need to "fear not".
At midnight the fern begins to bloom and fall on the linen. This is when you need to quickly rap the linen and hide it with the fern blossoms in your bosom. Such bravery rewards the person who did this to inherit the power to see how trees walk from one place to another. To understand the language of birds, animals, plants and trees. He will be able to locate treasure hidden in the ground and retrieve it.
The highlight of the ritual is a decoration of the sacral sapling - "kupaily" (kupailytsi, gil'tsya, madder). Usually it is the branch of a willow, cherry or ash tree, decorated by field flowers, paper ribbons, and burning candles. Girls dance and sing about love and marriage around the "Kupaily". It is then dipped in water and broken into pieces and given to the girls, "so they would attain riches".
The Kupal'ska ritual is highly symbolic. Kupal's'ki fires symbolize a cult of the Sun. Kupal's'ka water is a symbol of healing power. A fern is a symbol of a happy future. Magic Ivanivs'ka dew provides beauty and love, and the Kupala tree denotes fertility and happiness.
The Kupala ritual, as with Ukrainians, was widespread not only amoung the Slavic people, but also included other segments of Europe and even India. In particular, Bulgarians believed that on Kupala the Sun is "dancing" and "twirling the sabres". Polish girls baked ceremonial "sun" cakes while Englishmen sought out the fern, not for the sake of the blossom of a burning flower, but for its seeds which can make a man invisible.
6 June - Day of Journalists
Day of Journalists There are many professional holidays in Ukraine, and this is one of them. Being an independent journalist can be dangerous. But at the same time, it is one of the most important and interesting professions in providing people with unbiased information that they need to understand the world around them.
20 June (Third Sunday of June) - Day of Medical Workers
Another important professional holiday. People in white garments are receiving greetings and due respect for their hard and important work. But, try not to get sick on this day, as all doctors, nurses, and health care administrators will be getting together for some very, merry festivities. :)
24 June - Youth Day
Youth Day is celebrated with a lot of fun, fireworks and concerts!
Last Friday of June - Graduation Day
The end of June is well known as graduation time for schools, institutes and universities. It is the time when all exams are passed and young girls and boys receive their certificates or diplomas and thus enter their new life.
1 September - The Day of Knowledge
This is a serious holiday called the "Day of Open Doors" and includes all Schools, Colleges, Universities and Institutes. It is celebrated as the time when all students begin their new year studies. After a funfilled hot summer students are going back to the "Land of Knowledge". The day starts with meetings held next to each school. You'll see many nicely dressed students carrying flowers everywhere.
27 September – World Tourism Day
World Tourism Day is a wonderful time to visit this site and Ukraine!!
October 5 - Teacher's Day
This special day was created to focus the World's attention on the contributions and achievements of teachers as well as their concerns and priorities. Teachers recieve special appreciation for all the hard work they do.
8 October - Lawyer's Day
Lawyer's Day is another holiday in Ukraine that celebrates the legal profession.
6 December - Ukrainian Army Day
In 1991 the Decree regarding the establishment of the" Armed forces of Ukraine" was signed and is annualy celebrated.
19 December - St. Nicolas Day
On this day parents and relatives try to surprise their kids by placing small gifts, toys, or books into symbolic shoes or stockings or even under their pillows. St. Nicolas is the most well known Saint from the KievanRus era. People consider him first to help with any appeal and trouble. On December 19 he was beautified. Relics of St. Nicolas are kept in Bara city, Greece where people are believed to be cured by a single touch. This day opens the chain of winter holidays. Every child who behaved during the year will receive a present from St. Nicolas on this day. Nowadays it has become traditional to present gifts to every child.
25 December - Christmas
Catholic Christmas is also celebrated in Ukraine, especially in her Western regions.