It happened so that New Year celebration is much more spectacular than Christmas in Ukraine and a number of other countries in Eastern Europe. Why? Firstly, we celebrate Christmas two weeks later after the rest of the world – according to the Christian Orthodox church and Julian calendar Jesus was born on the 7th of January. Secondly, during the Soviet era, no public celebration of a religious holiday was allowed. That’s why people focused on the New Year instead, making sure to have a blast.
The fun starts in December, when New Year Trees are installed at the main squares of the cities, malls and smaller shops get beautifully decorated, and schools and kindergartens start to perform their festive shows.
My nephew new the New Year Tree in a shopping center
The main character of all the New Year related events is Father Frost – a Slavic version of Santa Claus. In spite of similar appearance, these two are actually rather different.
Differences between Father Frost and Santa Claus
- While Santa resides in Lapland, motherland of Father Frost is Veliky Ustyug in Russia
- Father Frost doesn’t fly and doesn’t have reindeer and elves to help him – he either walks or rides a three white horse-drawn sledge.
- While Santa is dressed in a red suit, Father Frost wears a long robe. The color of his outfit may vary from red to silver, blue or white.
- He also has a granddaughter – a beautiful winter princess Snegurochka (Snow Maiden) dressed in a lovely sparkling gown and a big spectacular crown. She helps her granddad to give out presents to the kids. Yes, gifts are not only put under the tree at night, but also are given personally. Very often Snegurochka and her granddad ask a child to sing a song, to recite a poem or to perform a dance, and then give a present or sweets as a reward.
Me with Father Frost
My nephew and other kids have just got presents from Father Frost
My nephew and Snegurochka (Snow Maiden)
Ukrainian people believe that the way you spent the New Year night has an impact on the coming year. That’s why the house should be tidied up and beautifully decorated, otherwise, it will be dirty and uninviting the whole year, and the dinner should consist of many tasty dishes, so that you’re never short of food. And the company you celebrate in matters too – families gather together, friends make sure to wish each other.
While getting ready for celebration, in many houses people watch Christmas and New Year themed movies. The same movies are shown every year, yet they remain popular for decades. One of the brightest examples – “The Irony of Fate”
The whole day the atmosphere in the house is very cheerful and pleasant – distant relatives make sure to call from other cities and abroad to wish you a Happy New Year, women make sure to look especially beautiful, taking extra care about their makeup, hairstyle and outfit, delicious aromas from the kitchen fill the whole apartment, mixing in a magical way with the fragrance of the pine tree.
Closer to the evening it’s time to lay the table.
It’s impossible to imagine a New Year dinner in Ukraine without :
- a bottle of champagne;
- Olivier (or Russian salad)
- “shuba” (Herring salad)
- mashed potato with pieces of fried chicken
- cut and beautifully arranged salamis
- chocolate candies
A quick Russian salad (Olivier) recipe
To make this salad, you’ll need 5 potatoes, 3 carrots, 4 eggs, half a kg of boiled meat or sausages, a can of green peas, salt to taste and 250 g of mayonnaise.
Then you need to boil potatoes, carrots and eggs. Peel potatoes and carrots, clean the eggs. Dice all the ingredients and add green peas. After that add salt and mayonnaise and mix all the components thoroughly. Keep the salad in the fridge for a while and voila –it’s ready 🙂
A salad with crab sticks is rather popular too.
A few minutes before the midnight the President of the country gives a speech. Unfortunately, our politicians are far from being trustworthy, that’s why, in spite of the magic of the festive season, people express their attitude with lots of bitter and sarcastic comments. The speech is followed by the national anthem and then the clock begins to strike 12. At this moment you’re supposed to drink a glass of champagne and to make a wish – it will definitely come true during the coming year. Perhaps it’s just the power of self-persuasion, but my wishes really often come true 🙂
After that everyone goes out to burn firecrackers of all types or just to observe the myriads of lights in the night winter sky. Then we usually opened the presents, though some families postpone this pleasant part of celebration till the next morning. After that you can either go to sleep, watch a New Year TV show or party with your friends – it’s just a question of personal preferences. Over the years in Ukraine I tried all three options, and each of them is charming in its own way.
To be honest, I miss my Ukrainian New Year celebrations here in India, but it’s ok, we’ve just had a very wonderful Christmas I would never had back at home 🙂
And what is a New Year celebration for you?