Christmas and New Year is a time of celebration and good fortune. It’s a time of feasting, family and friends. While there are many similarities between these holidays and others across the world, there are also some unique differences. In this guide we’ll show you how to say Merry Christmas in Ukrainian along with how to sing Auld Lang Syne with Scots on Hogmanay.
“Merry Christmas” is written щасливого Різдва in Ukrainian.
It is pronounced shchaslyvoho Rizdva.
[vitaju (tebe/vas) z novym rokom i rizdvom] – Congratulations (to you) on New Year and Christmas!
If you would like to learn more Ukrainian, you can find a helpful podcast and other great resources by a professional Ukrainian teacher based in Ukraine here.
Just like Scotland, Ukrainians decorate Christmas trees, sing carols, gather with family and give gifts.
Celebrations begin on Christmas Eve (January 6th), called Sviatyi Vechir or Sviatvechir in Ukraine. Some people fast for the day until the first star is seen at night, and then they have a special supper made up of 12 dishes. The most important dish is Kutia, made of boiled wheat with poppy seeds and honey.
The Ukrainian Christmas is usually celebrated on January 7th. This is because the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Catholic Church mostly use the Julian Calendar. People go from house to house singing Christmas carols. Some people give children sweets when they come to a house caroling, a bit like Halloween in Scotland.
Although many decorations are the same, something unfamiliar that you might see is the didukh. It is a shead of wheat and symbolises ancestors spirits, also referencing Ukraines history as the breadbasket of Europe as far back as ancient Greece.
The New Year in Ukraine is celebrated on January 1st, but there is also a second traditional holiday called “old New Year” which takes place on January 13th. There is often a big carnival called Malanka with costumes and pranks. This festival is based on much older pagan celebrations.
There are some amazing resources online, but the sites Ukrainer and Ukraine Now have some fascinating insights into different regional traditions and cultures if you want to explore further. You can also explore the full Ukrainian Culture category on our blog.
The Scots have many interesting Christmas traditions. Firstly, St. Andrew’s Day (November 30) is celebrated as the official start of the holiday season in Scotland. It is important because St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. This day is the feast day of St Andrew the Apostle. It is particularly associated with the town St Andrews in Fife, where there is often a celebration and festivities. In Ukraine St Andrews day is actually on the 13th of December. The flag of Scotland is the Saltire, but is also called the St Andrews cross. St Andrews Day is an official bank holiday since 2006, though many employers and schools will remain open.
Here is a video of people partying and having a ceilidh from a few years ago in St Andrews:
On Christmas Day itself, most families open presents from Santa Claus which are traditionally placed on the end of children’s beds or under Christmas trees wrapped up in pretty paper. People also give gifts to one another. They also eat large quantities of festive foods such as turkey accompanied by all kinds of vegetables such as roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots, peas, red cabbage, broccoli and more and drink alcohol.
New Years or Hogmanay is a big celebration in Scotland. Traditionally people will gather for parties on New Years Eve and even go from party to party in cities. There is usually a live concert and televised event at Edinburgh castle which many people will watch on their TVs with family. At ‘the bells’ (the moment when in turns midnight) people usually sing the song Auld Lang Syne and shake hands and hug. Auld Lang Syne is a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and later set to the tune of a traditional folk song. The song’s title may be translated into Standard English as “old long since” or more idiomatically, “long long ago”, “days gone by” or “old time’s sake”. The song begins by posing a rhetorical question as to whether it is right that old times be forgotten, and is generally interpreted as a call to remember long-standing friendships.
After ‘the bells’ at midnight Scots take part in a tradition called “first footing” which refers to the first person to step over the doorway into a home in New Years Day itself, people traditionally eat steak pie with family.
There is lots of information about Scottish traditions online, or you can explore the Scottish Culture category on our blog.
We hope you enjoyed this brief look at Ukrainian and Scottish Christmas and New Year’s traditions. Although there are a few differences, there is much more in common, including some of the more unusual aspects – St Andrew is the patron saint of both countries, many Christmas traditions are the same and both places also practice the tradition of ‘First Footing’.
We couldn’t possible cover all traditions of these wonderful countries, especially regional ones. Let us know in the comments below what your favourite traditions are for this time of year.
If you know anyone now staying in Scotland or hosting people from Ukraine, please share this post with them so that we can celebrate together. These traditions are a great way for people to connect with one another so lets make the most of the holiday season and get to know our new neighbours.
Featured image credit (carnival in Kyiv) Margarita Marushevska via Unsplash.