Typical Ukrainian family

Family has always been the base of every society, which types and forms depend on national folk features, social and economic relationships. Ukrainian word for the family is “родина” (rodyna) that is the key for understanding word`s origin – belonging to the genus (“род” in Ukrainian). On the territory of the Western Europe the structure of society is built around the family, but in Ukraine around the genus.

Ukrainian family

Ukraine family structure

Diverse historical and archaeological materials indicate the existence of monogamous families in Ukraine from times it was inhabited. Monogamous families in their turn can be divided into:

  • nuclear (simple, elementary);
  • extended families.

In the ancient times Ukrainian families had the form of large extended families. They consisted of several generations, lived together and had common ownership. There was a head of the family who controlled the common law and order observance. Such type of families existed for a long period of time.

Simple family type dominated during Kievan Rus times. The major part of Ukrainian territory was inhabited by villagers, who worked as independent manufacturers and had their own household. Their families counted in average six or seven members.

Later, during the next centuries simple families gained their further popularity in Ukraine. By the end of 19th century according to the statistics they had 84 per cents and the extended families only 16 per cents.

Ukrainian family Shevchenko paintings


Nowadays a typical Ukrainian family has a nuclear structure and consists of three or four people, including husband, wife and their only child or children. Usually family responsibilities are distributed among all members and the decisions are also taken by both spouses. The head of the family is considered to be a man, who is supported and respected by his wife and children.

Contemporary Ukrainian families face different financial, housing and private problems. The instability of earnings and indefinite future has an essential influence on internal processes of family life in Ukraine.

Ukrainian family values

Ukrainians are very devoted to their families. They always keep in touch with their parents and grandparents; sometimes several generations may live together in the same house.

One of the main aims of children upbringing in Ukrainian families is forming the national consciousness, sense of patriotism and respectful attitude to Ukrainian traditions, rites and customs.

Family lineage memory is the unique phenomenon in Ukrainian family life. From the ancient times it was a duty for each member of the family to know the genealogy to the fifth or even seventh generation. Children should realize their genealogical values in order to respect their ancestors and their genus. That`s why main family Ukrainian values are love, regard and patriotism.

Ukrainian family traditions

Ukrainian family traditions

The most important stages of human life and family development are always accompanied by various rites and traditions, which determine Ukrainian way of life. Family traditions in Ukraine are connected with different periods of life (childbirth, marriage), religious or calendar holidays.

Childbirth traditions

Many years ago pregnant Ukrainian women were forbidden to cut their hair, to attend funeral and to meet with cripples or blind people. People believed it could bring troubles for the women or their unborn babies. Nowadays some omens are still believed in.

Infant baptism is a very ancient Orthodox rite in Ukraine. According to this tradition babies are baptized in the church during their first months after birth. For this rite parents select godparents for their infant, who take part in christening ceremony and hold the baby. During this sacrament the priest puts on the cross on the child`s neck, as the symbol of Christianity, immerses him or her three times to the baptismal font and then wraps in a special white cloth that is called “kryzhma”.

As infant baptism is a significant and joyful event in every Orthodox family, it is celebrated by a great amount of people, including relatives and friends.

Marriage traditions

typical family in Ukraine


Family plays very important role in Ukrainians’ life, so they pay special attention to its creation. Ukrainian wedding process starts with matchmaking, when the groom and his friends (matchmakers) come to prospective bride`s parents and ask if he may marry their daughter.

Two or three days before the wedding date happily married women bake the traditional Ukrainian bread “korovai”. It is believed, they share their happiness and wisdom through this Ukrainian symbol with brides.

Another Ukrainian symbol for family is embroidered towel “rusnyk”. It is a ritual cloth, symbol of Ukrainian nation, of the native land and parental house. From the ancient times rushnyk, embroidered with special patterns, was an integral part of all Ukrainian rites: it was used to honor the childbirth, to welcome the newlyweds, to decorate the icons and at the funeral.

Holiday traditions

Ukrainians have many great holidays, which they traditionally celebrate in a big family circle. Preparations to Easter, the main Christian holiday, begin a week before the holiday. Women clean their houses, decorate eggs with national Ukrainian patterns (“pysanki” and “krashanki”) and bake traditional Easter bread Paska.

On Easter day early in the morning all members of Ukrainian families attend church service to bless Easter baskets. After that they come back home and have the traditional Easter feast including “egg battles” or “egg knocking”.

New Year is one of the most favorite holidays for children and adults, which is associated with a lot of presents, snow and Christmas tree.

contempopary family in Ukraine

There are many traditions connected with this winter holiday in Ukraine. The main symbol of New Year is Ded Moroz, Ukrainian Santa Claus, and his granddaughter Snegurochka. On New Year`s eve they visit Ukrainian houses and leave their presents under the Christmas tree.

As New Year is a family holiday all relatives gather together to celebrate it, to see off an old year and to congratulate each other with the coming year.

Inheritance traditions in Ukraine

According to the local traditions in some regions of Ukraine the property that belonged to the head of the family is divided between all members of the family.

During the Grand Duchy of Lithuania times women inherited only forth part if they had brothers. Distinctive feature of women`s inheritance of that period was “materyzna”, personal women`s property (part of the land) that was inherited only through the female line and wasn`t distributed between all members.

Nowadays there are two types of inheritors in Ukraine: heir-at-law and heir-by-will. Inheritance procedure is regulated by the civil code of Ukraine.

Adoption in Ukraine

According to Ukrainian Ministry of Health statistics the level of infertility in Ukraine is 20%, that means every fifth couple can`t have children. Adoption is the best way to create the full family. There are seventy three thousands orphans, who are waiting for their new families and homes in Ukraine.

To adopt children potential parents must be:

  • capable individuals at least 21 years old;
  • minimum 15 years older than the adoptive child;
  • married, if the adoptive parents are foreigners.

The procedure of adoption in Ukraine consists of several stages, which may have certain nuances and difficulties. Nevertheless such a long and extensive adoption process is aimed to protect children`s rights and interests.

Ukrainian kinship terms

Ukrainian terminology for family kinship has some differences comparing with English. For example, English term for husband`s sister and brother`s wife is “sister-in-law”, but in Ukraine they say “zovytsia” (зовиця) and “nevistka” (невістка). Husband`s mother and wife`s mother in Ukraine are called “svekruha” (свекруха) and “tescha” (теща), but in English they are both “mothers-in-law”.

English great-grandparents have in Ukrainian “pra” prefix — “pradidus” (прадідусь), “prababusia” (прабабуся).

How do Ukrainians call their relatives?

Maty/matir/mama (мати/матір/мама) Mother
Bat’ko/tato (батько/тато) Father
Syn (син) Son
Don’ka (донька) Daughter
Didus’ (дідусь) Grandfather
Babusya (бабуся) Grandmother
Cholovik (чоловік) Husband
Zhinka (жінка) Wife
Brat (брат) Brother
Sestra (сестра) Sister
Dyad’ko (дядько) Uncle
Titka (тітка) Aunt
Nebizh (небіж) Nephew
Neboga (небога) Niece
Dvoyuridnyi brat (двоюрідний брат) Cousin
Dvoyuridna sestra (двоюрідна сестра) Cousin
Svekr (свекр) Father-in-law (husband’s father)
Svekruha (свекруха) Mother-in-law (husband’s mother)
Test’ (тесть) Father-in-law (wife’s father)
Tescha (теща) Mother-in-law (wife’s mother)
Zyat’ (зять) Son-in-law
Nevistka (невістка) Daughter-in-law
Diver (дівер) Brother-in-law (husband’s brother)
Zovytsya (зовиця) Sister-in-law (husband’s sister)
Shuryn (шурин) Brother-in-law (wife’s brother)
Svoyachka (своячка) Sister-in-law (wife’s sister)

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