Ukrainian Observed Holidays and Culture…
Ukrainian Observed Holidays is a list of most of the holidays celebrated by Ukrainians. What you should also know is that many holidays are celebrated with another holiday.
It is not uncommon for one holiday to last for several days. Have fun and if you come to Nikolaev, stop by our language school.
January 1st – New Year’s Day
January 7th – Orthodox Christmas
March 8th – International Women’s Day
April – May – Orthodox Easter
50 days after Easter – Holy Trinity Day
May 1st & 2nd – Labor (May) Day
May 9th – Victory Day
June 28th – Constitution Day
August 24th – Independence Day
January 22nd – Ukrainian Unity Day (Den Sobornosti)
January 24th – Old Calendar New Year
January 25th – “Students Day” otherwise known as “Tatyana’s Day”
February 14th – St. Valentine’s Day
February 23rd – Men’s Day (formerly known as The Soviet Army Day)
April 1st – Fool Day (the Day of laughter)
May 13th – Mother’s Day
Third weekend of May – Europe Day
Last Sunday of May – Kiev Day Kiev (Kyiv)
June 1st – International Child Protection Day
June 5th – World Environmental Protection Day
June 6th – Ivan Kupala Day
June 6th – Day of Journalists
June 20th (Third Sunday of June) – Day of Medical Workers
June 22nd – Day of Sorrow and Remembrance of Victims of War
June 24th – Youth Day
Last Friday of June – Graduation Day
August 1st (first Sunday of August) – Navy Day
September 1st – The Day of Knowledge
September 27th – World Tourism Day
October 5th – Teacher’s Day
October 8th – Lawyer’s Day
December 6th – Ukrainian Army Day
December 19th – St. Nicolas Day
December 25th – Christmas
Ukrainians love their numerous holidays and like to “celebrate” those holidays in grandiose fashion. It’s not uncommon for westerners to be surprised at just how many holidays they observe and the amount of fireworks and fun that goes along with them. Ukraine’s history that included Paganism and later Christianity can be attributed to the evolution of many of its current holidays and celebrations.
State Holidays (banks are closed) Ukrainian Observed Holidays
1 January – New Year’s Day
It is one of the favorite 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 their champagne 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 most delicious meals. The main folk heroes of this holiday are Father Frost (Did Moroz) and his grand-daughter “Sniguron’ka” (The Snow Girl). The tradition of predicting fortunes on this night is very popular among young people.
Ukrainian Observed Holidays
One 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 strikes twelve times. Another “fun” folk tradition practised mainly in the villages on New Years night is for the unmarried girls to go outside and throw one of their boots over the Hosts’ fence. Whichever way the toe of the boot ends up pointing indicates where the future husband will come from. Nearly all businesses remain closed from December 31st to January 8th.
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. This 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, usually food, drink, sweets, or money, is usually 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 as both men and women look forward to this holiday. It originated as a day of fighting for women’s rights, when on the 8th of March 1897 women (workers of sewing and shoe factories) gathered in New York demanding 10 hour working days, light and dry work places and equal salaries with men. In 1910 at the International Conference of Women Socialists in Copenhagen, Clara Tsetkin proposed celebrating the International Women’s day on March, 8th which sounded an appeal to all women of the world to join in the struggle for equality.
The International Women’s day on March, 8th has been a State Holiday of the Former Soviet Union since the countries inception. Beginning in 1965 it was recognized as an official day off. The holiday enjoyed vast celebratory rituals, including public meetings involving officials at various levels of government in an attempt to report the governments efforts in supporting Women’s Rights and issues concerning them.
Gradually International Women’s day became less political and more personal. After disintegration of the Soviet Union , March, 8th has remained on the list of State Holidays in nearly all of the CIS countries including Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia as the “International Women’s Day”. In Uzbekistan it is referred to as the ” Day of Mother”.
In Armenia it is celebrated on April, 7th as the “Day of Motherhood and Beauty”. Currently in the CIS 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. After disintegration of the Soviet Union , March, 8th has remained on the list of State Holidays in nearly all of the CIS countries including Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia as the “International Women’s Day”. In Uzbekistan it is referred to as the ” Day of Mother”. In Armenia it is celebrated on April, 7th as the “Day of Motherhood and Beauty”. Currently in the CIS 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 Crucifixion 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 (biscuits 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 relevance 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.
1 – 2 May – Labor (May) Day
The 1st of May historically has been the traditional holiday of Spring. During the Industrialization of the Nineteenth Century, it became an International Day of Solidarity for workers of all countries.
The 1st of May began to be widely celebrated with various groups of workers joining together and paying tribute to the memory of victims of oppression and for the rights of all oppressed workers irrespective of their nationality, sex, age and/or profession. In it’s convention of 1888 the “American Federation of Labour” declared, that May the1st should become a day for the active struggle of workers for the eight-hour work day.
Strikes and Demonstrations were held worldwide. Later, in the former Soviet Union, this holiday was widely and actively celebrated with huge parades and political speeches on Red Square in Moscow and in all other cities. All workers of the Soviet Union including university and school students, were obligated to attend the parades, bringing flowers, balloons and posters. Non compliance was met with severe persecution.
Now in many of the CIS countries, including Ukraine, you can still find some political gathering to celebrate May Day. At this time however, 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.
9 May — Victory Day
This is a holiday of both joy and sorrow. A great tribute is bestowed to those who gave their lives during World War II resulting in today’s peace and happiness. The eternal memory of those lost will last forever throughout the generations. Veterans gather together remembering those who perished. Every city has an area on this holiday in which people gather called “The Eternal Fire”. In Kiev it is located near the famous WWII museum and the “Motherland” Statue and Monument.
28 June – Constitution Day
On this day in 1998 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 1990 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 ONLY if 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.
25 January – “Students Day” also “Tatyana’s Day”
Tatyana’s Day is a pleasant and upbeat holiday highlighting the best, brightest, and most carefree years in the life of every student. On this day, all former classmates tend to grow nostalgic, and recall their fellow students, Deans and Principals as well as recalling memorable student years. The holiday’s origin goes far back into history. On the 12th of January according to the Old Calendar (Jan 25 New Calendar) in 1775, being the day of “Maiden Tatyana the Martyr”, Empress Elisabeth Petrovna signed the regulation “Concerning the foundation of Moscow University.” This project was developed by the famous Russian Scientist Mikhail Lomonosov and later continued by Ivan Shuvalov.
Shuvalov chose this day to sign the regulation not by accident. as he desired to present it as a gift to his mother Tatiana Petrovna on her Name Day. “I am giving you a University”, said Shuvalov. On Easter, 1791 the “Church of Tatyana the Martyr” was opened. Later, Nikolay ” I” disposed in his Decree to celebrate, not the opening of the University, but the signing of the regulation regarding its foundation. On this holiday all kinds of distinctions -of age and class, grades and ranks, were cancelled, Rich and poor were equalized – All felt themselves as fellow citizens of the” Scientific Republic ”. On this holiday the kitchen was preparing for the students cold snacks along with vodka, cheap wine, and beer. You could find seated at the table favourite professors, popular journalists, students, lawyers, and administrative figures. Vladimir Giljarovsky, describing Tatyana’s day, truthfully recalls the popularity of a rhyme “”Pyana – Tatyana” which translated means “Drunken Tatyana”. Yes, it was a loose, and at times a disgracefully loose holiday. So, thanks to the love of Mother by an omnipotent favorite of Shuvalov, and the decree of emperor Nikolay “I”, Sacred Martyress Tatyana has turned into a “Patroness” of the students, and the day of her commemoration turned into a reckless revelry. Nowadays, on this winter day we congratulate students of all generations. With feelings of gratitude we recollect the teachers who opened the Temple of Sciences for us. Even though this holiday is considered more of a Russian holiday, students in Ukraine are celebrating it also as a youth holiday, for all of those who keep the fire of creativity in their souls, with a thirst for knowledge, search and discovery.
14 February – St. Valentine’s Day
St. Valentine’s Day inherited from Western culture, is now very popular in Ukraine.
23 February – Men’s Day
It is a tribute of respect to all the generations of Soviet soldiers and military people who defended courageously our Motherland from invaders. All men ,including boys, receive heart-felt greetings and gifts. Now, this holiday is considered as an opposite to Women’s Day on the 8th of March, as all men get an opportunity to have their own holiday as well 🙂 So, women have an opportunity to say the warmest and sweetest words to the men they love and to flatter them with attention.
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 holiday taken more seriously than in Ukraine’s port city of Odessa where an impressive and light hearted parade is held annually 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 – Kiev Day Kiev (Kyiv)
Last Sunday of May – Kiev Day Kiev (Kyiv) – 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 eloquent “white candles”. Spring is a great time to visit Ukraine’s Capital Kiev 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? Ukrainian observed holidays is all about celebration. 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 June – Ivan Kupala Day
Ivan Kupala Day is one of the great and enigmatic holidays signifying a celebration in honour of the “God of the Sun” (or “Dazhbog”). It is believed 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. Ukrainian observed holidays are a time for celebration. 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. Ukrainian observed holidays are all about traditions. Traditional ceremonies are timed so as to celebrate in honor of youth, beauty, love and purification.
On the 6th of July people set off for the gathering of medical herbs and plants. On Ukrainian observed holidays they also 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. Ukrainian observed holidays are always full of tradition. All night long people keep Kupala bonfires burning, leaping over the flames, cleansing themselves of ill and bad luck. Families get together on Ukrainian observed holidays.
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 un-scorched . 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. Ukrainian observed holidays is for family. Sometimes girls were sending their own personal chaplet with candles lit 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”. Having fun at Ukrainian observed holidays is tradition for the family.
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. Families get together on Ukrainian observed holidays. 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 among 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. Ukrainian observed holidays are always interesting.
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. 🙂
More Ukrainian observed holidays.
22 June – Day of Sorrow and Remembrance of Victims of War
This day was the beginning of World War II for the USSR. On this day in 1941 began one of the darkest pages of mankind, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. A long four years of war were marked with the heroic battles of the Soviet people and their allies for liberation. Many were killed. Nearly every family lost one of their loved ones. This day is to remember those who fought for freedom and defended their families and their country. This day is to remind us also about the terrible human mistakes of the past and to prevent them in the future.
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 August (first Sunday of August) – Navy Day
If you are in Crimea, especially in Sevastopol, don’t miss this day and the opportunity to witness an expressive and impressive festival. Parades, concerts and fireworks. A good time for all guaranteed! 🙂
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. Ukrainian observed holidays are a great way to get the kids together. After a fun filled 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!! People from around the world celebrate Ukrainian observed holidays.
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 receive special appreciation for all the hard work they do. Teachers love Ukrainian observed holidays.
8 October – Lawyer’s Day
Lawyer’s Day is another holiday in Ukraine that celebrates the legal profession. Even lawyers celebrate Ukrainian observed holidays.
6 December – Ukrainian Army Day
In 1991 the Decree regarding the establishment of the” Armed forces of Ukraine” was signed and is annually celebrated. Ukrainian observed holidays can be a solemn time.
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. Ukrainian observed holidays are full of tradition and celebration. 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. It has become traditional to present gifts to every child.
25 December – Christmas
This day is celebrated with friends and family, but not like Christmas in the USA. It’s more of a day to relax and enjoy family, but without the gifts. The entire family like Ukrainian observed holidays. However, many families will buy and decorate a Christmas tree (Yolka) just like in many other countries around the world. Christmas is always fun on Ukrainian observed holidays.
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