Ukraine customs and traditions absorbed the experience of many generations of people who lived in the country during its long history. Every new generation brought its own vision of every day rules of life to follow, creating what we call today a national culture.
Traditions and customs vary regionally within Ukraine. There are significant cultural differences between city and village, West and East Ukraine.
Let me introduce some Ukraine customs and traditions from a standpoint of the person who belongs to the Ukrainian culture by birth and life experience. I hope it will help you to recognize real gems in the culture, which from the first glance looks different than culture of your native country.
National traditions are like a heart of the national culture. They determine the way people live: their language, religious belief, life values, social relationships, material goods food, clothing, buildings, tools, etc.
From time to time the status of Ukrainian and Russian languages in Ukraine become a subject of pretty dirty political games. I will present to you some facts and statistics and let you make your own conclusion about the languages spoken in Ukraine.
Ukrainian is the only official language in Ukraine.
The majority of the population in Ukraine is bilingual.
Both Russian and Ukrainian languages are equally popular in Ukraine. Very often you can watch the picture. Two persons in the street have a conversation. One of them speaks Ukrainian, while another one uses Russian. They don’t even realize about speaking different languages. They understand each other and get along well.
The traditional Ukrainian cuisine is rich of natural ingredients. You will always remember taste of tomatoes, cucumbers, pepper, onions, apples, grapes, peaches grown in the famous fertile Ukrainian soil.
The Ukraine customs and traditions in cooking are based on a combination of fresh or pickled fruits and vegetables, meat, mushrooms, and herbs. Often they include a great number of ingredients and their unusual combinations.
In Ukraine people tend to eat fatty food, such as whole milk, sour cream, butter, etc. Sometimes people even go to villages to get whole milk because it is considered to be beneficial for children. Ukrainian people like to cook. They practically don’t eat junk food.
The description of Ukrainian cuisine would be incomplete without salo (pork fat). Sometimes Ukrainians joke: “Salo is our national pride”. Placing a thin sliced salo on black bread with garlic and salt will make it especially delicious.
It is hard to name a nation that would respect bread as much as Ukrainians do. During many centuries Ukrainians were strongly attached to their land and its fruits. Bread was regarded as one of the holiest foods. The cult of bread is well observed in Ukraine customs and rituals.
Hosts often give their guests a loaf of bread with salt on the top. The ritual of offering a guest bread and salt is a ceremony of welcome which dates back many centuries. “The Bread and Salt” tradition is very symbolic in Slavic culture. It can symbolize many things. During wedding ceremonies in Ukraine instead of the customary wedding cake,
traditional bread called Korovai, is served. It symbolizes a new family birth and its future prosperity.
As for Ukraine customs and superstitions, we have to remember that for hundreds of years the Orthodox Church in Ukraine coexisted beautifully with ancient Pagan traditions. Superstitions are part of our cultural heritage. That’s why elements of mysticism and irrationality are the noticeable part of Ukrainian mentality.
Social Do’s and Don’ts
Sometimes the smallest things in life can cause offense. Below is an introductory guide to Ukraine superstitions, customs, and traditions you should be aware of to a void embarrassing or insulting situations. Some of the Ukraine superstitions are based on common sense, while others may leave your feeling utterly baffled.
Before leaving a house for a long (even for a couple of days) journey, you and everyone in the house should sit for a minute in silence.
Ensure that all your debts are settled before 31st December; otherwise you will be in debt for the whole of the next year.
If a knife falls down from the table, a male guest will come soon. If a spoon or a fork falls down, a female guest will come soon. If you don’t want them to come, you have to immediately knock three times with the utensil on the table and say ‘stay at home’
If you do not recognize someone when you see them or call them on the phone, this person will get rich.
It’s good luck to break a dish.
Dont’s or Taboos
Here’s a list of common Ukraine superstitions that Ukrainians regard as traditions. If you don’t want to look rude, don’t violate them in Ukraine.
It is considered quite rude to whistle while indoors. You may feel a few stares, not to mention, it is believed you will also lose a large amount of money soon after.
If you are going to buy flowers for somebody, make sure the number is odd, even numbers are for funerals. Don’t be surprised when the seller asks you, “Are they for a funeral?” while you are trying to buy four roses.
When you are celebrating a birthday, it is tradition to celebrate it on the day or after, but it is considered bad luck to party before the day arrives.
An unmarried girl mustn’t sit at the corner of a table, or she won’t be wed for seven years. So, if she is 15 only, it might be O.K.
Never throw bread crumbs in the trash or you’ll go hungry.
Whatever you do, don’t sit on cold stones because you won’t have children, especially if you’re a girl.
Never buy or accept as gifts baby clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, etc. before the baby is born.