The celebration of St. Nicholas Day is very well known in the Western part of Ukraine, but over the past few years, it has been getting more popular to celebrate it all over Ukraine.
History of the holiday
St. Nicholas’ history in Ukraine goes back to the 10th and 11th centuries. We can see his icons in almost every church. St Nicholas has always been considered to be a patron saint of children. In Ukraine and other Eastern European Christian countries, St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on the 19th of December.
The first written records of Ukrainians celebrating St. Nicholas Day by giving presents to children and the poor date back to the 15th century. This tradition came to the Western part of Ukraine from catholic Poland, while people in the rest of Ukraine celebrated St. Nicholas Day in different ways. In the late 1930s, Soviet authorities created a new character, Did Moroz (Grandfather Frost), who took the place of Saint Nicholas. Did Moroz comes on New Year’s Day, not December 19th. This meant that in atheist Soviet Ukraine, the New Year celebration became more important than St. Nicholas Day and even Christmas.
In this infographic from the Kyiv Post magazine, you can see the comparison of these two characters.
Nowadays, Ukraine is reviving St. Nicholas by rejecting its Soviet past and getting back to Ukrainian national tradition.
How do Ukrainians celebrate St. Nicholas Day?
Before the holiday, Ukrainian children write letters to St. Nicholas where they list their wishes, but the fulfillment of their wishes depends on the child’s behavior during the year. Some children get presents, while others, who misbehaved during the year, just get twigs.
St. Nicholas puts gifts under the pillow or in boots during the eve of December 18th. These are usually sweets (chocolate, candies, fruit), toys, games, books, or warm clothes. Adults may also receive a surprise in the morning of the 19th.
St. Nicholas Vocabulary St. Nicholas – Святий Миколай; a holiday – свято; children and adults – діти і дорослі; poor people – бідні люди; a help/ to help – допомога/допомагати; a pillow – подушка; presents – подарунки; sweets, toys, books – солодощі, іграшки, книжки.
Nowadays, there are many charity initiatives in Ukraine. People gather presents for kids in orphan homes, low-income families, or hospitals. Volunteers also send presents to elderly people, people in need, and soldiers who protect the Ukrainian borders in Donbas.
Do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day? What do you usually give and receive on this holiday?