Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on the night of January 6 to 7. This evening is called Святий вечір (Святвечір) – Holy Eve (other names: Багатий вечір – Rich Eve, Багата кутя – Rich kutia).
On Christmas Eve, all family gather together at a table with 12 lean dishes on it. Christmas Eve falls on the last day of the Christmas Fast (Різдвяний піст), which is why all meals must be lean. The 12 dishes symbolize the 12 Apostles. According to ancient tradition, one shouldn’t eat all day before the first star appears in the sky.
In today’s post, we will show you what dishes might be served on this Eve.
This is one of the main dishes, made from wheat (пшениця), barley (ячмінь), rice (рис) or oats (вівсянка), and mixed with grated poppy seeds (макові зерна), nuts (горіхи), honey (мед), dried fruits (сухофрукти), etc. All ingredients have some meanings: wheat (or other grain) symbolizes resurrection, honey – eternity, nuts – health, and poppy seeds signify fertility. During the evening, children visit and treat their godparents (хрещені) or other relatives with kutia. The children receive sweets (солодощі), money (гроші), or other presents (подарунки) from the adults.
There is a traditional belief to leave the dish after Christmas Eve overnight on the table so that the souls of the dead ancestors could also taste it.
Носити кутю – to carry kutia (to bring a treat to relatives, mostly godparents).
Uzvar is a light and healthy drink made of dried fruits: apples (яблука), pears (груші), prunes (чорнослив), rose hips (шипшина), cranberries (журавлина), raisins (родзинки) or a mixture of different ingredients. The name of the drink goes from a verb заварити (to brew) because in order to make uzvar you need to brew dried fruits, there is no need to boil them.
Usually, borsch is cooked with meat but there are also lent recipes of this dish. Meat (м’ясо) might be replaced by beans (квасоля) and small buns called вушка (ears). These buns are made from dough and are stuffed with mushrooms (гриби).
An integral addition to Ukrainian borsch are small buns, made of yeast dough based on wheat flour.
For Christmas Eve, Ukrainians cook dumplings stuffed with cabbage (капуста), potatoes (картопля), mushrooms (гриби), sauerkraut (квашена капуста), or sweet ones with cherries (вишні) or blueberries (лохина). The dough should be lent so it is preparing using only water, flour, and salt. The word вареники comes from the verb варити (to boil). In some dialects, varenyky might be called пироги (perogies).
Holubtsi (cabbage rolls) is a traditional dish usually made of cabbage leaves, rice, and meat. On Christmas Eve, however, it is cooked with potatoes, mushrooms, onions (цибуля), and carrots (морква) or just buckwheat (гречка) instead of meat. Cabbage leaves are stuffed with the filling which are then baked, simmered, or steamed. It is often accompanied with some tomato (томатний) or mushroom gravy (грибний соус).
Тушена капуста –Stewed cabbage
It is a popular Eastern European dish which is nourishing and simple to cook. It is often cooked together with onions. It is prepared by chopping cabbage and onions, adding salt and a bit of dressing, then put ingredients into a pot in few batches while stewing it.
The vinaigrette is cooked from boiled potatoes, beets (буряки), carrots, beans, some people add also raw onions, parsley (петрушка) and marinated or pickled cucumbers. It is usually seasoned with sunflower or any other oil.
Уха –Ukha Fish soup
Ukha is a thin hot fish dish which is perfect for cold winter days. Different fish is used for cooking ukha: mostly crucian (карась), perch (окунь), redeye (червонопірка) or carp (короп). We add to ukha usual for soup vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and onion, as well as some herbs and a bit of pepper for a nice taste and aroma.
Консервовані овочі та гриби –Pickled vegetables and mushrooms
For Ukrainian Christmas dinner, you may find pickled cucumbers (огірки), tomatoes (помідори), mushrooms, zucchini (кабачки), sweet pepper (солодкий перець), garlic (часник) and even corn (кукурудза). It is an important snack on winter holidays feasts.
Marinated herring is a very tasty and nourishing dish to have on the Christmas table. It is well-known that herring takes an important place in Ukrainian cuisine. It is might be dressed with sunflower or any other oil.
Калач –Kolach Christmas bread
Kolach is a bread braided into a ring, or three rings on top of each other, to symbolize the Trinity. Kolach is put at the centre of the table with a candle (свічка) inside it. Because kolach is not a lean bread it should be eaten on the Christmas day (the 7th not the 6th), but many families still have it on their tables.
That’s how Ukrainians celebrate Christmas. Tell us about your Christmas table in the comments below.