If you ask which holiday a year is the most important for southern Ukrainians, the answer is definitely New Year's Eve. People here really love it and the only thought of it make them tremble with joy. It is probably the childhood memories of presents and joyful atmosphere which brings the anticipation of miracle. However adults thirst more for big parties as New Year celebration is the biggest social event of the year.
If you want to understand what makes New Year be New Year in the South of Ukraine, or would like to celebrate Ukrainian style New Year's Eve, here is the recipe.
Take a New Year tree and decorate it. Do it the same way you usually do in your own country. Nobody can tell the difference between American, European or Ukrainian New Year Tree decorating, unless you put it upside down. Do not forget that you have to put presents and gifts your kids asked Ded Moroz ( a guy with presents ) for under your NY Tree. Yet if you hire a Ded Moroz to come and bring your kids presents and miracle , check if he is stone-cold sober to go along with kids as a tipsy one ( such incidents occur fairly often ) is more suitable for an adult company to drink a toast to the New Year.
Now take as many tangerines as you can eat and start doing it. Their smell will create the atmosphere of New Year excitement. While eating tangerines start dicing salad Olivie ingredients. No one New Year feast can do without this traditional dish which is a heritage of the USSR. Other traditional dishes are furred herring( sliced herring covered with grated boiled eggs, onion, potatoes, and beetroot), jellied meat, red caviar.
11 o'clock is a high time for dozen friends to come and bring fun and revelry. Some of them also bring either food or vodka and you all together start seeing the old year off recalling the best and memorable moments of the year that leaves. 5 minutes to 12 you all gather for a feast and switch on the TV set to enjoy the president's congratulatory speech. Well, "enjoy" is the wrong word. It usually does not matter whether you like the speech or not, whether you agree with the ideas of it or not, whether you voted for this president or not, the only fact that matters is that this speech signifies the approaching of the very New Year we all are waiting for. So during these 5 last minutes of old year you have to do a lot of things including
When president ends his speech the clock starts to strike twelve. Now it is time to drink your champagne and wish everybody a happy New Year. This is a part you definitely know how to do. Then the firework part follows. It is also similar to what you have in your country, so there is no need to explain anything. Fill the rest f the night with parting, eating, drinking, dancing, singing, having fun, visiting other friends and relatives. By the way if you are going to visit them and wish a happy new year do not forget to take three or four handfuls of wheat grains to "saw" your relatives with them, so that they have luck and wealth and health this year. This custom is called "zasivannya".
All the New Year parties usually end with the whole day of eating, sleeping, visiting more and more friends. Very often parties end with hangovers, but that's another story.
Next holiday comes soon. On the 7th of January there is Orthodox Christmas, the holiday which is covered with warmth of dear hearts and conciliation. The night before is the Christmas Eve called in Ukraine ‘Sviaty Vechir' (Holy Evening). People usually cook a lot of tasty foods for this evening. There is a tradition of serving at least 12 different foods on the table. The main dish among those twelve is ‘Kutia' -- the ritual food which is prepared from cooked wheat and special syrup containing diluted honey, grated poppy seeds, raisins and sometimes walnuts.
In the holy evening and on the Christmas day children accompanied by their parents go to their Godparents and bring them confectionary and Kutia. People call it to bring Vecheria ( Holy Supper). Children instead are given presents sweets and sometimes money. There is also a tradition when children or adults in the Holy Evening come around their neighbors spreading grains and colored seeds. They wish people good health and abundant harvest for the next year and ask for some donations. Also they perform some Christmas songs called in different parts of Ukraine ‘Koliadky'or ‘Shchedrivky' . This tradition is mostly observed in Western Ukraine, however in the South it sometimes happens too creating the atmosphere of Christmas.