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Christmas

Christmas, the feast of Christ's birth was at first celebrated in the East on January 6, together with the feast of Epiphany. Later, in the mid-4th century, it was established by the Roman Catholic church as a separate feast and was celebrated on December 25, according to the Julian calendar. With the introduction of the Christianity into Ukraine in the 10th century Christmas was fused with the local pagan celebrations of the sun's return or the commencement of the agricultural year. In some areas the pre-Christian name of the feast Ko-liada has been preserved. The most interesting part of Ukrainian Christmas is Christmas Eve (Sviat-Vechir) with its wealth of ritual and magical acts aimed at ensuring a good harvest and a life of plenty. Dead ancestors and family members are believed to participate in the eve's celebration and are personified by a sheaf of wheat called "did" or "didukh" (grandsire). A characteristic feature of Christmas is caroling, which expresses respect for the master of the house and his children and is sometimes accompanied by a puppet theater (vertep), and individual dressed up as a goat, and a handmade star. The religious festival lasts three days and involves Christmas liturgies (particularly on the first day), caroling, visiting, and entertaining relatives and acquaintances. The Christmas tree, which was adopted from Western Europe, is today an element of the New Year celebration in Ukraine. The Christmas theme has an important place, more important than Easter, in Ukrainian painting, particularly church painting, and in poetry.

The "holy supper" on Christmas Eve is a meal of 12 ritual meatless and milkless dishes. The order of the dishes and even the dishes themselves are not uniform everywhere, for every region adheres to its own tradition. In the Hut-sul region, for example, the dishes were served in the following order: beans, fish, boiled potato dumplings (pyrohy or varenyky), cabbage rolls (holubtsi), dzobavka or kutia (cooked whole-wheat grains, honey, and ground poppy seeds), potatoes mashed with garlic, stewed fruit, lohaza (peas with oil or honey), plums with beans, pyrohy stuffed with poppy seeds, soup containing sauerkraut juice and groats (rosivnytsia), millet porridge, and boiled corn (kokot).


 
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