Christmas Celebration in Transcarpathian Villages


From times immemorial, people in Transcarpathia consider Christmas as one of the most important holidays. So, they prepare to it very carefully. Of course, there are a lot of traditions common to all of the Ukraine, but still Transcarpathia has some peculiarities of its own. We will tell about them in this article.


Preparation for the Christmas Eve


A woman from the Kryva village tells us, that in her village in the morning of January, 6th (Christmas in Ukraine is celebrated on January, 7th) the hostess has to set fire to 12 wooden logs with a fire steel and a flint to cook 12 traditional dishes (lean, of course): fish, cooked beans and peas, stewed fruit drink, dumplings, buckwheat porridge with hemp milk, cabbage rolls with millet filling, fried cabbage, kutia (a traditional Ukrainian sweet porridge of wheat, walnuts, poppy seeds and honey, that is made only for Christmas), pies with poppy seeds, and potatoes. While the hostess cooks, the host takes care of the cattle outside. By the way, to hit cattle on this day is considered to be a great sin, as on the night before Christmas cattle can talk to God in human language.    

Preparation for the Christmas Eve in Transcarpathian Villages


In the evening, all the family has to gather together, and you need to end all the conflicts with your enemies.

In the beginning of the 20th century, Transcarpathians didn’t have breakfast or lunch on the day before Christmas. After the sunset, all family members prayed. When the first star appeared on the sky, the host went out to give cattle some food from the holiday table. He also invited the Frost to come in and have some kutia. After this, the doors of the house were closed, and the family ate the Holy Supper. In Irshava region, people start the Supper with a garlic clove and some honey – all of the family does it to be healthy and strong. A very well-grounded tradition, indeed! Nobody was allowed outside till the end of the Supper. After the Supper, older children could go outside to give food to the poor.

It’s interesting, that in Transcarpathia kutia isn’t cooked everywhere in the region; there are places, where they make bobalky instead: steamed and then baked balls of dough, covered with walnuts and poppy seeds. They also make a special pie called Karachun (this is also the name for the Christmas Eve – the name dates back to pagan times). 


Koliada and Bethlehems


Koliada and Bethlehems in Transcarpathian Villages


“Bethlehem” is the name for what is called in Ukraine in general “vertep” – a kind of street theatre that retells the story of Christ’s birth. At night on January, 7th, during the late “seinochna” Holy Mass, they come inside the church with koliada – Christmas carols. According to the tradition, the bethlehems also have to enter every house in the village during this night – to bring the news of Christ’s birth to everyone. 

In some villages, there is a tradition, that a bethlehem has to come into the house first, and only then you can let in the children who come to sing carols. They say it’s for “serencha” – luck. An interesting fact: the money that bethlehems receive from villagers, they have to give to the church and not have it for themselves.
Boys even have a special carol for unmarried girls: “Oh, there, in the house, there is a red rose, we wish your (name of the daughter) to have a good spouse”.


Christmas Fortune-telling


During Christmas holidays the family sometimes puts a chain under the table – for prosperity of the household. And young girls gather for fortune-telling during these days. They have to gather in a company and put their shoes in a line. Then the last shoe is taken to the front of the line, and so the line “moves” to the door. The girl, whose shoe is the first to touch the door, will get married first.

Christmas Fortune-telling


Fortune-telling with the help of books is also popular: you ask a question that interests you, name the page and the line, and then read the “answer”.


Didukh


Didukh is a sheaf of rye that symbolizes harvest and prosperity. It is taken into the house by the host on the Christmas Eve after the prayer. For a didukh, you cannot use just any rye, but the so-called “Savior’s beard”. It is taken from the small plot of the field, which isn’t harvested until the end of all the fieldwork, and which is left specially for this ritual use.
Didukh

 

Taboos


In Transcarpathia, it is considered unfortunate to visit your neighbours on Christmas day before noon. And especially women are discouraged to do this. They say, if a woman comes into your house first on this day, it brings misfortune. But if it’s a boy, then it’s for good fortune. Girls were allowed to go and sing carols only on the second or third day of the celebrations. Also, in Transcarpathia people don’t usually go to sing carols to houses of the people they are not acquainted with.

Here are just a couple of the Christmas traditions of Transcarpathia. If you want to know more and get deeper into the atmosphere of the authentic celebrations, go on a Christmas tour of Transcarpathia with Feel Ukraine tour agency! We offer you two tours, each interesting in its own way.
 

Tour 1: 3 days, Christmas Eve and Christmas in Transcarpathia


On the first day, we leave Lviv for Kolomyya, where we will visit the Museum of Pysanka (Ukrainian traditional painted Easter egg) and the Museum of Hutzul Culture. Then we go to the heart of the Hutzul region – Verkhovyna, where we will celebrate the Christmas Eve. There will be Hutzul dishes, carols and dances – you will find out a lot about their culture. 
On the next day, there will be Holy Mass in the church of Assumption. On this day, we will visit museums: (“Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” Movie Museum, Shepherd’s Hut Museum, Museum of Musical Instruments of Roman Kumlyk). 
On the third day we will enjoy nature in Bukovel and Yaremche.

Details: Tour Christmas in the Carpathians
 

Tour 2: 3 days, castles, thermal springs and folk crafts


On January, 6th we will visit the Schönborn Palace and the Palanok Castle. In the evening, we will stay in local village households, where we will meet the Christmas Star. Here you will have a taste of some of the common Ukrainian lean Christmas meals, as well as some more local, like the soup “kapostash posui”. 
On the second day, you will visit the Uzhhorod Castle and the cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. After that, we will relax in thermal pools of Beregovo and taste some very good Transcarpathian wine. 
The third day will be intense with visits to many locations: Nyzhnie Selyshche, Iza, Kelechyn, Mounts Makovytsia and Pylypets.


The nature of Transcarpathia is amazing, and the locals are very hospitable to tourists and eager to tell about their ancient traditions and customs.