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The Ukrainians are just fond of celebrating holidays. They strictly observe the traditions of Orthodox and Soviet holidays and readily accept Western holidays like St. Valentine Day, Halloween, St. Patrick's Day and so on. A great number of holidays can be divided into several groups - public, religious and just holidays. Public holidays are marked with red in the calendar for you not to forget to have a good rest. When a holiday falls on a non-work day, Saturday or Sunday, the nearest Friday or Monday is a day-off.
Jan 1 New Year's Day
...is no doubt the main holiday of the year. According to the most recent polls about 90% of the Ukrainians have called it their favorite holiday, everybody impatiently waits for round the year. People decorate the New Year Tree, cook festive dinners, buy presents, go to numerous New Year's parties that are generously held not only at the end of December but also in the first two weeks of January. There is a saying that a person will spend the year the way he has welcomed it, so many do their best to have fun on the New Year's Day. One usually spends this day or, to be more precise, evening and night with his family or friends. The local channels show loved-by-all Soviet films and a few minutes before midnight, the annual festive address of the President to his nation is broadcasted. This bright holiday is loved by people of different ages, but it is especially dear to children. They believe that Ded Moroz, or Santa Claus, comes this night and puts gifts under the tree, of course if they haven't been naughty in the old year.
Jan 7 Orthodox Christmas
...Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar, used in Europe and North America. Therefore the Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on January 7, 13 days later than the Catholic world. A very important religious holiday, Christmas wasn't celebrated under the Soviets almost during the whole 20th century and only at the end of 1990s it was resurrected. On January 6th, Christmas Eve, many families gather for Sviata Vecheria (Holy Supper). The twelve-course meal is dedicated to Christ's twelve apostles. The traditional meals included are kutia (home-made bread with honey and red poppies), borsch (beet soup), vushka (dumplings filled with onions and mushrooms), a variety of fish, vareniki (dumplings filled with cabbage, potatoes, or prunes), andholubtsi (stuffed cabbage). In the last few years many forgotten traditions like Kolyadki (masked children going door-to-door to receive candy in exchange for traditional songs and jokes) have being reviving.
Jan 13 Old New Year's Day
...The strangest holiday of the Slavonic calendar. In fact, it is also connected with the conservatism of Slavonic people. After the 1917 Revolution, Russia and Ukraine switched to the western calendar. Before that time they have been 13 days behind the rest of the world. However, even though the official calendar was switched, many people did not want to change and others refused to celebrate New Year before Christmas. The celebrations are not of such an enormous scale as the ones of the New Year's Day and it is not a day off.
Jan 25 Tatiana's Day
...or Students' Day. The holiday originates to the 18th century. In 1775, on the day of Maiden Tatiana the Martyr Empress Elizabeth Petrovna signed the regulation about the foundation of Moscow University, which went down into history as the first Russian University. In the 18th and 19th centuries this day was celebrated as the Day of Foundation of Moscow University, but already in the second half of the 19th century it became a holiday of all the Universities and students. Today, Tatiana's Day is a kind and cheerful holiday, when students enjoy the freedom, youth and coming vacations. Those who have been students decades ago remember their old good days at universities.
Feb 14 St. Valentine's Day
... When the so-called Iron Curtain fell down, people of the Former Soviet Union saw that there are a lot of nice European and American holidays and have eagerly adopted some of them. There is no point in describing Ukrainian St. Valentine's Day as there is practically no difference from the Western holiday of the same name.
Feb 23 Former Red Army Day
...Men's Day In Soviet times it was the holiday of all those who had ever served in the military. While the Soviet Union was rather a military state, about 90% of men were at some point connected to the Red Army, so later it became a holiday for men. It is not a public holiday in Ukraine, but most women make some presents to their male relatives and friends and do their best to please their husbands and boyfriends.
March 8 Women's Day
...Originally introduced by the Communists, this holiday has lost its political content and has become a cultural tradition. On this extremely popular holiday men are expected to do everything around the house and give their women the possibility to have at least the only day off from all that cleaning and cooking. Men present chocolate, flowers and small gifts to their wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, female friends and colleagues.
Apr 1 Fool's Day
...or Humor Day People play tricks on their friends and if they have a sense of humor then everybody have fun. The best tricks are considered the ones made before midday.
...The major holiday of the Orthodox religious calendar. It is usually about two weeks after Catholic Easter. For many people this holiday starts with church attendance on Saturday evening, where the festive church service is held and the father, or Orthodox priest blesses kulichi (traditional Easter cake) and pisanki (painted Easter eggs). The father greets the congregation repeating many times over: "Christ is risen!" and the congregation replies in chorus "Indeed He is risen!" During the day people visit relatives and closest friends and present them with Easter basket, filled with kulichi and pisanki, which are believed to posses a spiritual power. Everybody greets each other with "Christ is risen", then follows the answer "Indeed He is risen!" and exchange with triple kiss, the so-called Khrystosuvanni.
May 1 Labor Day
...or May Day. Under the Soviets, it was one of the greatest holidays of the year - with colorful demonstrations and celebration of the workers and kolkhozniks, or collective farmers. Today, practically nobody bothers with parades, transparency and that entire Soviet staff (surely except for some energetic old people, who try to revive those "good old days"). People just stay at home and rest. Nevertheless, this remnant of Communism is unlike to die in the near future.
May 9 Victory Day
...Owning to the closeness of this holiday to May Day, often the first week of May is weeklong holiday for the whole country. It is a very importantholiday for all the Ukrainians, while you hardly find a family, which would not suffer from Nazis in the World War II. Large military parades are held, wreathes and flowers are put on graves of soldiers and those who died in war. Family and friends congratulate veterans who wear their uniforms and medals on this day.
...Each Ukrainian city has its City Day, the day when the city was founded. Kiev Day is usually celebrated at the last weekend of May. During two days various performances of popular actors and musicians are held. Many people from suburbs and even other towns come to Kiev to see performances, walk along nicely decorated streets and have a great time. The celebration is usually accomplished with fireworks at about 10 p.m.
Holy Trinity Day
...It comes fifty days after Easter and celebrates the Descent of the Holy Spirit who poured himself out on the apostles. On this day people decorate their houses and apartments with greenery, which is a reminder of the new life that comes through baptism. The wildflowers blessed on the festive church service are dried up and kept behind the icons, as they are believed to possess special spiritual powers. For example, if the mistress of the house puts dried flowers in the garret, they will protect the house from fire. On Holy Trinity Day young girls make garlands and throw them in the river or lakes to foresee the future. If the garland sinks, the girl who made it will die in the following year, if not, she will get married. This tradition originates from the pagan holiday celebrating the beginning of summer, which was forbidden after the Christening of Kievan Rus.
Jun 28 Constitution Day
...It is quite obvious that this holiday commemorates the signing of the Ukrainian Constitution that took place in 1996. As this holiday is rather new there are no particular traditions of celebrating it. For example, in Kiev on the Constitution Day on Maidan Nezalezhnosty Square concerts of popular Ukrainian singers are held. Besides, on this day you are sure to hear the hymn of Ukraine, broadcasted on radio or TV or sung by people in the street.
Aug 24 Independence Day
...In 1991 Ukraine became independent from the USSR and was proclaimed a Sovereign State. The Independence Day is usually celebrated with festivals and military parades. If you have a possibility, visit the performance of military orchestras that is quite interesting.
Sep 1 Day of Knowledge
...The first day of the new school year. Children go to schools; students go to universities and institutions, where on this day different celebrations are held. The most spectacular events are at elementary school. Well-dressed first-year children, bringing flowers for their first teacher, gather in the schoolyard or in the school to listen to the first bell ringing. A first-year child, usually a girl, is carried by a graduating student, usually a boy, and she rings a bell, thus, opening a new school year.
Nov 7 October Revolution
...Once a great Soviet holiday, since 2002 it ceased to be public, but you still can see some communist pensioners marching with red flags and transparencies in Kiev's streets.