Ukrainian calendar and names of the months

Today the Ukrainians use the official calendar with the names of the months retained from the Old Ukrainian language. From long ago Ukrainians’ annual calendar was divided into four seasons following the motion of the sun and seasonal changes in nature. Agricultural cycles were set according to this division.

The names of Ukrainian months reflect these seasonal changes, different agricultural works and people’s needs.

The first records of names of months date back to years 1056 and 1144, they were found in church books. But the researches proved that well-defined structure of twelve months existed in Ukraine long before the Christianity. One of the ancient Ukrainian calendars was embossed on the clay pot dating back to 4th century B.C. This pot was found near the village of Romashki not far from Ukrainian capital Kiev.


Names of months in Ukrainian

Months in Ukrainian with the definition of their names.

Sichen’ (January)

The name ‘sichen’’ derives from the word ‘sicha’ with the meaning ‘cutting’. The period of the second winter month was marked with the preparing of the soil for coming agricultural works and cutting out all the roots.

Shichen’ (January) was not always the first month of the year. At different times it was eleventh and fifth. Only in 1700 it began to mark the new astronomical year.

Lyutyi (February)

The word ‘lyutyi’ means ‘harsh’. The name of the month reflected the severe frosts that were typical for this period of the year. At first the word Lyutyi was used to name the second winter month – Sichen’, but in time the names switched places.

Only in the end of the XIX century it was finally decided to set Lyutyi as a name of the second month of the year.

Berezen’ (March)

The word ‘berezen’’ derives from the words ‘berezol’ or ‘berezil’’ and describes the process of birch burning in order to get ash (‘bereza’ – ‘birch’, ‘zola’ – ‘ash’). Collected during the first spring month birch ash was used as a fertilizer.

Until year 1324 Berezen’ was the first month of the year. Only in the middle of the XIX century the name ‘Berezen’’ finally replaced the name ‘Mart’ (derived from Latin) which was widely used.

Kviten’ (April)

The name ‘Kviten’’ changed the name ‘Berezen’’ only in XVI century. The word ‘Kviten’’ has meaning ‘flowering’, ‘blossom’. The second spring month is marked with the wakening of nature, flowering of trees and plants.

Traven’ (May)

The name ‘Traven’’ derives from the Ukrainian word ‘trava’ meaning ‘grass’, ‘herb’. On the one hand this name reflects the nature changes during the third spring month – the grass is green, lush and dense. On the other hand the name refers to the occupations of the Ukrainians – Traven’ is a month for gathering medical herbs.

The word ‘Traven’’ gained widespread currency only in the XX century. Before then the word ‘Mai’ from Old Slavic language was used.

Cherven’ (June)

The first summer month has a name which derived either from the word ‘chervets’’ or ‘chervonyi’. The word ‘chervets’’ refers to scale insects; these insects were collected and processed during the first summer month in order to get valuable red dye for painting goods and selling. The word ‘chervonyi’ with the meaning ‘red’ could also be a stem for word ‘Cherven’’. In June berries and fruit ripen and get the red color.

Lypen’ (July)

The name ‘Lypen’’ derives from the word ‘lypa’ which has a meaning ‘linden’. The second summer month in Ukraine is a time for linden flourishing. Linden is a very important tree for Ukrainians. For many centuries dried linden blossom is used as a medicine. White honey (‘linden’ honey) is good for health.

Serpen’ (August)

The last summer month is a time to reap a harvest. For the Ukrainians farming was very important, which is reflected in the name ‘Serpen’’. The word ‘Serpen’’ derives from the word ‘serp’ with the meaning ‘reaping hook’. The reaping hook was the main instrument of labor for the Ukrainians during the harvest.

Veresen’ (September)

The name ‘Veresen’’ has the word ‘veres’ for the stem. ‘Veres’ is ‘heather’. This valuable honey plant has the most splendid blossom during the first autumn month.

The name ‘Veresen’’ came into use only at the beginning of the XX century.

Zhovten’ (October)

The second autumn month is a time when the leaves on the trees grow yellow. The word ‘Zhovten’’ is derived from the word ‘zhovtyi’ meaning ‘yellow’. This name dates back to the Kievan Rus’ times.

Lystopad (November)

During the last autumn month the trees lose their leaves. This act of nature is named ‘leaf fall’ or ‘lystopad’ in Ukrainian language.

In the days of Kievan Rus’ the third autumn month was named ‘Gruden’’, but for the modern calendar the Western Ukrainian tradition was taken, in which this month was called ‘Lystopad’.

Gruden’ (December)

The name ‘Gruden’’ can be found in the records dating back to the XII century. Before then the first winter month was called ‘Studen’’ (meaning ‘cold’, ‘frozen’). ‘Gruden’’ has the similar meaning, it refers to frozen soil piles – ‘grudy’, which formed on the roads and in the fields with the first winter frosts.

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