Christians of the Eastern rite celebrate Christmas on January 6 and 7. In the evening of January 6, the 40-days long Christmas lent ends and the 12-days celebrations begin. That includes outdoor festivals in the name of the Son of the God. The Slavs have since old times organized the Christmas-cribs, sung carols and wished everyone good for the whole year.
According to biblical narrative, on this day, Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem.
Due to the inflow of people in the city, the spouses, Mary and Joseph, could not stay at the hotel and they were forced to look for another shelter. Just at the time, the childbirth term approached, and baby Jesus was born in a cave where shepherds sheltered cattle from bad weather.
There are several theories that Jesus was not born in winter and people began celebration Christmas in January only because at this time, the pagans marked the birth of the Sun of Truth and the light day increased in this period.
Anyway it was, the Orthodox Christmas and Christmas Eve preceding to it is widely celebrated by the Christian world and have many traditions and customs.
12 dishes and didukh: Traditions of Christmas Eve
Traditionally, the Christmas in Ukraine starts on January 6 with the Christmas Eve. On this day, the whole family, including little children gathers for the festive dinner. A person should not be in someone else’s house on the Christmas Eve.
The Christmas Eve usually starts with lighting up candles in the memory of their deceased ancestors and reading the Lord's Prayer. After that, the head of the house blesses the dinner.
On the Christmas Eve, there should be 12 Lenten dishes on the table – in the name of 12 Apostles. The main –kutia (special porridge cooked from barley, wheat or rice). Many Ukrainian women add nuts, poppy, raisins and honey to kutia. Except for this dish, you can make: borsch, varenyky, mushrooms, vegetable salads and pickles. After you eat the meal, you drink uzvar (sweet compote from dried fruits).
Each family member should try all 12 dishes even a little, but you cannot eat the whole dinner, otherwise your fridge will be empty all year.
On Christmas Eve, it is also customary to place didukh at the most honorable place in the house - wheat, oatmeal and rye sheaf, which, according to legend, protects the house from evil spirits and personifies the welfare of the family.
How is Christmas celebrated in Ukraine?
According to legend, at midnight, on January 6 to 7, you need to open the windows and doors so that Christmas could enter the house.
An integral attribute of the Ukrainian Christmas are carols. On this day, caroling people go from house to house, announcing the good news of the birth of God's child.
Divine liturgies are held in all the churches, and the family gathers at the festive table, greeting each other with the words: "Christ is born! Let us sing the praises!"