Ukrainian Seasonal Traditions

Discover Ukrainian seasonal folk rituals, ceremonies, and festival traditions

Christmas Eve, Khmelnytskyi Region (1949)CFC Big Ideas in association with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

Ukrainian calendar ceremonies closely relate to the agrarian way of life, rooting back to the primitive pagan beliefs of the Slavs. Only much later, the church took over the ceremonies and gave them a Christian flavor. Indeed, the calendar ceremony is divided by season cycles.

Circle Dance at the Ivan Kupala DayCFC Big Ideas in association with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

Summer

The summer ceremonial cycle was very busy and diverse. It lasted from the end of May until the first holidays to honour the new harvest. 

The two main motifs of the summer celebrations were the worshipping of the main elements of nature and the combination of manhood and womanhood.

Wreath guessingCFC Big Ideas in association with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

Ivan Kupala Day

The Kupala ritual is one of the biggest summer holidays. It symbolizes the birth of the summer sun – Kupalo. The Kupala ritual is also a celebration of the summer solstice, and Ukraine shares this holiday with many European nations – France, Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Sweden.

Celebration of Ivan Kupala Day at the Pivdennyi Buh River. Photo of the 1970's, the city of VinnytsiaCFC Big Ideas in association with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

The main pagan ritual actions were: weaving wreaths by girls and releasing them into the water; honoring the Kupala tree with dances; kindling the fire and jumping over the fire; ritual bathing; burning or sinking of trees; burning of sacks of straw or stuffed dolls; and dinner.

Tradition of the Procession of Bush rite in the village Svarytsevychi, Dubrovytsky district of the Rivne regionCFC Big Ideas in association with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

Procession of Bush rite

The history of the Procession of Bush rite, originally called as Vodinnya Kusta, is associated with honouring the cult of ancestors. The Procession of Bush rite is performed on the 50th day after Easter at the Holy Trinity Day. Its origin is Svarytsevychi village in Rivne region.

Kalyta. Andriyivsky Vechornytsi (student reconstruction), Vinnytsia (1999)CFC Big Ideas in association with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

Autumn

Autumn’s holidays revolved around the completion of all fieldwork and preparation for the winter. Most ceremonial actions were carried out inside in the form of vechornytsi (evening parties). 

Kalyta. Andriyivsky Vechornytsi (student reconstruction), Vinnytsia (1999)CFC Big Ideas in association with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

Kalyta

Kalyta was the key event of the season as it honored the sun which was resting until spring.

Wedding guests, Yakymivka village (1956)CFC Big Ideas in association with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

Other autumn ceremonies were directed at family life. Therefore, starting from Pokrova, autumns were full of weddings. Other holidays were also associated with marriage or fortune-telling (Dmytra, Introduction, Kateryny, and Andriya).

"Malanka", Vinnytsia region (1996)CFC Big Ideas in association with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

Winter

The winter cycle started with the Presentation of Mary (December 4th), when "summer was entering into winter." Winter rites were often linked to the rebirth of the new sun. It contained the most rituals, with which people tried to provide health, happiness, and prosperity.

Shchedrivky singers, Vinnytsia RegionCFC Big Ideas in association with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

Ukrainian winter traditions included singing carols (ritual songs about the birth of Christ) and shchedrivky (songs wishing the owners of dwellings a rich life and a generous harvest). The winter cycle lasted until the transitional holidays - Stritennia and Obretinnia.

Vesnyanky singing in a circle dance (reconstruction)CFC Big Ideas in association with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

Spring

The spring cycle of calendar holidays was aimed at planting the future crops. Hence, ritual-magical actions connected with the calling of spring, warmth, birds, and rain (Stritennia, Obretinnia, Iavdokhy, Teply Oleksa and Annunciation) were of great importance.

Palm Sunday, Vinnytsia Region (2002)CFC Big Ideas in association with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

Easter

Easter is the main spring holiday. Easter holiday falls on the spring equinox and symbolizes the victory of the Light over the Darkness. The Easter ritual cycle consists of Holy Week, with Palm Sunday and Clean Thursday, Easter, and Bright Week, with Radunytsia and Easter Monday.

Vesnyanky singing in a circle dance (reconstruction)CFC Big Ideas in association with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

Spring is also a time when human emotions revive. Ceremonies for young people included fortune-telling, guardianship, ritual singing of vesnyanky, hayivky (Slavic ritual songs for calling spring), and playing circle-dances.

Credits: Story

Authors: Iryna Batyrieva, Ludmila Kotyash

Credits: All media
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