St. Nicholas Day is a very special holiday for Ukrainian children and adults. In Ukraine and other Eastern Christian countries it is celebrated on December 19 (unlike Western Christian countries, where it is celebrated on December, 6).
National traditions of St. Nicholas Day celebration in Ukraine
Tradition to celebrate St. Nicholas Day came to Ukraine with the Christianity during the rule of the prince Vsevolod Yaroslavovich (years 1088-1089). Saint Nicholas always considered to be patron saint for children.
In Ukraine St. Nicholas Day was mainly considered as a church fete, but in some Ukrainian regions national traditions of celebration were also strong, they were similar to Christmas celebrations.
At one time in every house beer was brewed for the holiday and on the day of St. Nicholas relatives and friends gathered together to enjoy the taste of beer, to rejoice and to have fun.
In Kharkiv region the holiday was celebrated for three days. On December 17, 18, 19 Ukrainians cooked koliva (kutya) and traditional drink uzvar in order to call upon heavy crop.
In Kyiv region people went to church on St. Nicholas Day. After returning home the head of the household took the bowl filled with holy water and aspersed all of his property in order to defend it and make it prosper.
St. Nicholas Day for many centuries was one of the main holidays in Western Ukraine. Women baked for this day round cookies called ‘mykolaychyky’ with different fillings. These cookies are put under the children pillows as a sweet presents for the holiday and are given to all the friends and relatives wishing joy and health.
Nowadays preparations and presents
Shortly before the holiday Ukrainian children (often with the help of their parents) write letters to Saint Nicholas in which all their dearest wishes are listed – material (new toys or other goods) and spiritual (health and happiness for parents, relatives and friends). The fulfillment of the material wish depends on the child’s behavior during the year. For those who behaved well St. Nicholas will definitely prepare the present, and even for those who did not there will be something pleasant (sweets, for example) if they promise to make good.
St. Nicholas Day presents can be different. It is up to parents to decide what gift to put under the child’s pillow (sweets, a toy, a book etc.). Of course, most of the parents consider their children wishes when they choose a gift.
At nurseries and schools children with teachers’ help prepare different sketches, sing songs and recite poems about Saint Nicholas.
For those children who don’t have parents different charity organizations prepare St. Nicholas Day gifts.
Concerts and celebrations with dancing, singing and performing are hold on the eve of December 19, and every child gets his present for holiday.
St. Nicholas Day in Ukraine is a really bright and joyful holiday. Parents and grandparents tell the children story of St. Nicholas life and teach them to be as kind, laborious, charitable, honest as Saint Nicholas was.
Ukrainians believe that in the night of December 19 all their sincere wishes will be heard and fulfilled.