The Culture of Ukraine: holidays, traditions, food, people

Kate Dobromishev
9 min readAug 1, 2017


Premarital sex, dancing dead man, magic potion — these are traditions of Ukrainians majority is not familiar with. Sometimes Ukrainian people who are believed to be religious held such ceremonies that it’s hard not to be surprised.

1. Ukrainian girls declare their love to guys

Until the 17th century, Ukrainian girls could be the first to confess their love to guys. French engineer and cartographer Guillaume Le Vasseur de Beauplan mentioned this tradition in his “Description of Ukraine”.

The girl came to the house of the man she was in love with, and proposed him witnessed by all his relatives. It was believed to be a bad luck if the man refuses, therefore, he was forced to say goodbye to his happy bachelor life.

2. Between hugs and sex in Ukraine

On the evening parties for young people, traditionally held in Ukraine, there was a tradition that made it possible for young people to get “closer”.

Single man and girls gathered for the evening party (mostly at the widow’s house — she was supposed to watch them). There they ate, drank, played games, and then “snuggled”.

The couples went to bed together and had “half-sex”; that is, to preserve the virginity of the girl. However, this was not always possible; often the girls became pregnant and did not even understand how it happened. There is evidence that 45.6% of women, who went to such evening parties, lost their virginity before marriage.

3. Kupala — the night when everything is allowed

Ivana Kupala is the Ukrainian holiday of human unity with nature. And nature is nothing to be ashamed of; therefore, on this day the youth was allowed to do something normally unauthorized, but yet not less desirable.

That evening the girls were making wreaths and then threw them into the water or into fire. If the man managed catch the wreath — the girl had to kiss him. In addition, the girl was supposed to spend the whole evening with that person. Who knows what could happen between young people at night in the forest while searching for the flower of the fern without any control of strict adults…

Even now, Ivana Kupala is widely celebrated in Ukraine: with wreaths, singing and mother-naked dancing around the fire.

4. A glass of virginity

Maria Matios, a writer, describes ancient Hutsul custom that warped lives of many young woman.

The next day after the wedding night, the young man toasted to the bride’s father in front of all the guests. The father came closer the table where the newlyweds are sitting. The young man took the wooden glass with his right hand, with his forefinger closing the bottom, and said a toast, “I drink for you, father,” and drank holding his finger on the bottom.

After that, the groom poured alcohol for the father of the bride. If the bride was chaste — the glass was without a hole at the bottom. If the virtue of the bride was lost before the wedding — the groom gave a glass with a hole, and all the guests could understand that as bride’s father was all in wine.

5. Friends helped the groom during the first wedding night

The wedding night of the newlyweds was fun for all the guests. While the couple was having sex for the first time, guests stood at the door and sang shame songs. The newlyweds had no more than half an hour.

Of course, not all men are in the right mood in such situation. Therefore, if the groom did not cope with his duties — best friend was supposed to help. Often it was a close relative of the groom, and in some cases even the father of the groom. If they did not want to interfere with that, the matchmakers were depriving the bride of virginity using … their fingers!

6. Demonstration of virginity

A sheet or a shirt with blood after the first sexual intercourse of newlyweds was carried out for public inspection. If the bride was not a virgin, she was blamed for the rest of her life.

7. Ukrainian woman and blood

Ukrainians believed that menstrual blood is unclean. In “these days”, women mostly stayed at home. They should not have done housekeeping, take birth, or even go to a funeral.

Since earlier simple people did not wear underwear, the blood simply ran down the legs and polluted the shirt.

The blood that emerged during the childbirth was also considered impure. Having given birth to baby, the woman had to stay indoors for 40 days.

8. Vagina — channel into the afterlife

Menstruation blood was considered dangerous for men. Blooding vagina was considered a channel to the afterlife, which could drag on and bite.

9. Bewitching man with blood

Despite the fact that our ancestors considered menstruation blood dirty — it was used for love spells! It was believed that if you mix the blood with a drink and the man drinks it, you could bewitch him for life.

10. Stick in the blood

Hunting in the mountains has always been different from hunting in another area. The inhabitants of the mountains have always respected animals. Even today, the hunters keep some strange customs.

When the animal is killed, the hunter crosses himself, takes off his hat and kneels.

If hunting takes place in an oak forest, then the oak stick is smeared with the blood of the killed animal; after that, the hunter fastens the stick to his hat.

11. Gates on the roof

On December 13, St. Andrew Day, young men have the right to do tricks without any punishment. Earlier, the boys were pulling threads in the streets, put stuffed animals near the houses of girls, etc. And most often (the tradition has survived so far), they removed the gates and hid them nearby, for example, on the roof.

12. Egg that shows the way to the treasure

On Easter night, Ukrainians tried not to fall asleep. It was believed that the one who will fall asleep that night, will be sleepy throughout the year.

Therefore, everybody was trying to have fun and not sleep. Our ancestors believed that on Easter night a red egg would help to find … a treasure! They said that the egg, being heated with the human warmth, indicates a hidden treasure. However, such knowledge was considered dangerous.

13. Brownie under the armpit

The life of Hutsuls (Hutsuls — inhabitants of the Carpathians, ethnic group of Ukrainians) has always been associated with belief in spirits, afterworld forces, witches and the like. The representatives of this mountain ethos not only believed and protected themselves from mysterious forces, but they also raised them!

The Hutsuls believed that it was possible to get Gazdivnyk (house-spirit) from the egg of black chicken. They were holding such an egg under their armpit for 9 days. This household trait was called “Khovanets”, “antipka,” servant “, etc.

14. Circle protecting from evil forces

In Transcarpathia region, people collect magic potions on St. George’s Day. In the evening, each potion must be touched with a stick, so that the witches could not interfere.

People were laying to sleep right near the potion. Fires were not allowed; you had to draw a circle around to protect yourself from evil forces. In the morning, people were collecting the herbs, and saying: “I take the potion unknowingly, so let it be for good only”. When going home with herbs, one shall not to meet anybody.

15. “Sealed” embroidered cloth

Vyshyvanka is the identity of Ukrainians. Locals worn on weekdays and on holidays. Yet, our ancestors were superstitious, and that is why they “sealed” embroidered cloth from evil spirits. To do this, the symmetry in the embroidery was violated. Our ancestors believed that it could help them.

16. Eating from one plate

On Christmas Eve, there was a tradition when all members of the family ate from one plate. In some families, this tradition has survived.

17. Ax and fear

On Christmas Eve, and sometimes on New Year’s Day, the owner of the house was trying to scare the trees. To do this, he took an ax and waved it at a tree that did not bear fruit well. He did not cut it, but only frightened it. Someone from the family had to protect the tree and tie it with a straw rope overweight.

In some regions, the trees were shaken and plastered with dough. This should help the future harvest.

18. Hay on the floor

For Christmas holidays, the floor in the house was covered with hay or straw. Members of the family were walking on it until the third day of Christmas or until early New Year morning. After that, the hay was taken outside and burned on the road, at the gates or in the garden.

19. Funeral Games

Hutsuls are very special people, so even their funeral is not like the funeral of other ethnic groups.

There, the deceased was not buried for two days, and only after that came the actual funeral. In the evenings, relatives and neighbors gathered around the deceased, the deacon read the psalms, and after that, everyone was treated … with vodka.

The wildest tradition of the Hutsul funeral is the so-called “hrushki”. These are games that young people played during funerals; it is similar to those played during spring festivities and weddings.

20. Goat of the deceased

Population of the Carpathians had a tradition to play games near the deceased. For this, in particular, the mock-up of the goat’s head was used; it was worn on a pole, similar to the one used during Melanka festivities.

People also sang and danced, letting the deceased person leave for another life.

21. The deceased, who drinks water

Highlanders lit a fire and play trembits in front of the house with dead body.

Nobody could drink water in the house of the dead, because it was believed that the soul of the deceased could drink it. If someone wanted to sit on a bench, he had to blow on it, so as not to crush the soul of the deceased.

22. Hide the way back

The same mountaineers took the coffin out of the house so as to prevent the deceased from finding the way back home. The dead man was carried out with his feet forward through the back door. Then they knocked the coffin on the threshold three times, so that the deceased would say goodbye to his ancestors and never return.

When the coffin was taken out of the house, a new pot had to be broken right where the coffin was standing. The road that was used to take deceased to the cemetery was sprinkled with rye and barley so that no one die in his house.

23. Picnic on the grave

Although the Christian religion and the church are against such customs, there is a tradition to picnic in the cemetery. On different holidays, people bring food and even alcohol to the grave. All this is left for the deceased at the cemetery. In addition, relatives drink standing near the grave.

We hope that you was really shocked with some of Ukrainian holidays and traditions. To know more about our culture, dont forget to book private sightseeing tour in Kiev by Guide me UA.



Kate Dobromishev

Private Guide in Kiev: +380660679089 whatsapp