Ukraine is a highly traditional country, where the observance of certain customs and practices plays a central role in its culture. Younger generations gladly adopt and follow these rituals, making them even more vivid and up-to-date. Here are the 11 things most Ukrainians do and the reasons behind them.
Did you know you can now travel with Culture Trip? Our small-group trips are designed for culturally curious travellers and feature unique, authentic local experiences on every itinerary.
Making pancakes for an entire week
A popular Ukrainian custom is Maslenitsa week. This holiday already existed in the times of Kievan Rus. The pancake was considered a symbol of the sun (yellow, round and hot), therefore, it meant seeing off the winter and greeting the spring. Celebrated in the last week before the Great Lent, Maslenitsa is a cheerful event. People serve freshly baked pancakes every day, go to visit each other, sled, ski and simply enjoy life.
Getting treats for Christmas
Christmas in Ukraine is a family holiday when all the relatives gather together. They set a festive table with 12 traditional dishes (like the apostles), sing Christmas songs, remember all the good things that happened in the past year, and wish each other health and happiness. During the Christmas holidays, the tradition of carolling is also followed. Children go from house to house, sing Christmas songs and wish the hosts all the best. The most important part is “seeding” the floor with grains of wheat or barley, which brings prosperity and happiness to the house. Hosts, in turn, have to give money, sweets or any other treats to the carolers.
Wearing vyshyvanka in everyday life
Although vyshyvanka (an embroidered shirt) is a part of traditional Ukrainian attire, it is a trendy piece for everyday life as well. Many Ukrainian brands have created their own interpretations of its shape, colour and length, thus, making it a popular item all over the world. Fashion celebrities like Anna dello Russo (Vogue Japan journalist) and Dita Von Teese have been spotted in vyshyvanka by Ukrainian designer Vita Kin. Locals do not miss the opportunity to show off in the embroidered clothing either.
Being overemotional and loud
Ukrainians are very friendly and welcoming. They love large groups and gatherings, always help each other and consider all people around them to be their best friends. Thus, if you happen to come to a party in Ukraine, don’t worry, you’ll definitely make some friends and will chat, laugh and sing your favourite songs till dawn.
Painting eggs for Easter
The most important elements in Easter are the krashenki (multicoloured boiled eggs), as well as pysanka (painted eggs). The latter have a very deep symbolic meaning because every detail of the patterns means something. For example, the red colour symbolizes the good and the joy of living. Yellow is for warmth and crops, while green means hope. Superstitious Ukrainians have been observing this tradition for many centuries and gladly continue to put heart and soul into this activity, even nowadays.
Pricing a bride at a wedding
The tradition of buying a bride is as old as the Ukrainian wedding itself. In the past, such a rite had significant implications. Nowadays, though, this tradition is just an innocent game. Together with friends and an entourage, he participates in competitions and gets comic assignments in order to show that he is worthy of the bride.
Eating a piece of paper as the chimes strike twelve
An absurd but funny custom in Ukraine is to put a piece of burnt paper in a glass of champagne and drink it at the New Year. It is believed that a written and swallowed wish will definitely come true. But the trickiest part is that you have to do it while the chimes are striking twelve.
Celebrating the New Year twice
On the night of 13 January, Ukraine celebrates the Old New Year. Despite the fact that this holiday is not an official one, locals never miss a chance to celebrate it one more time. Such a historical phenomenon appeared as a result of a change in calendars. At the times of Kievan Rus, people followed the Julian calendar, which was 13 days behind European time. To reduce this gap, the transition to the Gregorian calendar was carried out in 1918 and January 14 turned out to be the date of the Old New Year.
Expressing gratitude through gifts
In Ukraine, people pay a lot of attention to interpersonal relations. If in Germany there’s a notion of die Termine (the appointment) that cannot be changed (and of adhering strictly to rules in general), in Eastern European countries, it’s a bit more flexible: there’s a possibility of kindly asking for a reschedule, explaining your circumstances and getting what you want. The same rule applies almost to every segment of everyday life. Therefore, to express gratitude, locals usually buy flowers, chocolate or alcohol and present it to someone who’s been very helpful.
Having a picnic at a grave
Commemoration week in Ukraine follows Easter and ends on the 9th day after this holiday. This period is called Radonitsa or Hrobki. The tradition has pre-Christian roots and is closely related to the cult of ancestors. The ancient Slavs came to the graves of their deceased relatives because they believed that the dead rejoiced in hearing warm memories of themselves. Nowadays, even though the church does not approve of having fun at the graveyard, people come here to put some food on the grave, have a snack and, thus, share it with their dead relatives.
Plunging into an ice hole
Plunging into an ice hole on January 19 (the day of the Baptism of Jesus) is a national tradition in Ukraine. However, the Epiphany frosts are considered the coldest, so people believe that it is impossible to get ill. On the contrary, the waters become holy on this day and heal from all the diseases. So, if you spot Ukrainians screaming but swimming in the icy waters in winter, do not be surprised, and keep this peculiar tradition in mind.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.