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Published:December 28th, 2005 08:22 EST
Christmas in Ukraine

Christmas in Ukraine

By Ann Poludenko

Christmas is a magical holiday. It is celebrated in many countries in different ways and at different days, depending on the religion that people belong to. For Catholics, this magical day is on the 25th of December, while for Orthodoxes it comes on the 7th of January. Most of Ukrainians are just now beginning to celebrate Christmas, but most of them have started the preparations long ago.
It is not true that everything old goes away with the year that has passed. Christmas traditions of Ukrainians are a great mixture of prefathers` beliefs and customs with modern ways of celebrating.
According to the history of the country, there are some cultural differences between the eastern and western parts of Ukraine. This is why I am going to tell about Christmas traditions of central Ukraine.
The 6th of January is a very hard day. Most people get up early in the morning and start cleaning and cooking. Why cleaning? Because Christmas means helping to destroy everything bad that is in our lives. That means to start with forgetting old offenses and throwing away all the garbage from the garage and secret " table shelves.
Now cooking, but what?
Christmas is a special holiday, and it has some special cooking rules. The meal is traditionally meatless and milk-free and features fish. The menus may vary, but the necessary part is Kutia. " It is a dish of honey, poppy seeds and wheat kernels boiled in pure rainwater. Food is one of the aspects of culture that endures the longest. If you loose the language you loose the literature and the songs, but you don`t have to speak Ukrainian to eat holubtsi (cabbage rolls) and pyrohy (dumplings).
As soon as the first star appears, everything must be ready; because that is symbol of the beginning of the holiday, it is forbidden to work on these days. Evening on January 6th is called Holly Eve (Svjtui vechir). It begins with the lighting of candles. After a carol and the Lord`s prayer, the kutia is passed and everyone takes a spoonful, but nobody eats yet. The head of the family raises his spoonful and greets the family with the words Christ is born ". The family answers Glory, praise him! " This is a signal to start the meal.
This evening, children go from house to house singing Christmas carols. While singing, they sow " on the porch different seeds. This is how children greet people, wishing them wealth, happiness and a good harvest for the next year.    
The 7th of January is a time for the whole family gathering. " After talking and eating a lot, at the second half of the day, people put on special costumes, go outdoors and start Christmas festivals. They wear beast-skins and horns and run around the town, trying to frighten all the rest of residents, in good fun.
In two hours or so, all the participants gather at some certain place (that may be the central part or the outskirt of the town) and start fight-plays. At the end, all the beasts " have to loose the battles. Then people make a big fire and burn the skins, after that everyone starts to dance. This symbolizes the fight between Good and Evil, and the victory of Good means that the next year people won`t meet with Evil.
It is absolutely right that we are what we believe in, and words that we use to hear during the Christmas time should really become the motto for the whole year.
War is over if you want it
War is over now "
Merry voices raise and sing tonight
Let it be this way all the time.