- 1 January – New Year's Day
- 7 January –Orthodox Christmas
- 8 March –International Women’s day
- Orthodox Easter
- Holy Trinity Day (Triytsya) – OrthodoxPentecost
- 1 May & 2 –Labour Days
- 9 May –Victory Day
- 28 June –Constitution Day
- 24 August Independence Day
Religious holidays are observed according to the Julian calendar , but the dates shown above are Gregorian.
When a public holiday falls on a day off (for example, Sunday), the following working day (often Monday) becomes a day off. For most Ukrainian employees, regular weekly days off are Saturday and Sunday.
If only one or only two working days are between a public holiday and another day off, then the Ukrainian Government may release a recommendation to avoid this gap by moving these working days onto a certain Saturday (that is to have uninterrupted vacations, but to compensate this by work on another day, which would be a day off otherwise). Such recommendations usually affect only those employees whose weekly days off are Saturday and Sunday.
It is one the most favorite of all holidays in Ukraine. As in Western countries on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians give “New Year” presents, Children receive their presents under the New Year Tree on the morning of the 1st of January. Traditionally just prior to midnight there’s a Presidential speech broadcast nationally. When the clock strikes Midnight, people pop open their Champaign bottles and raise a toast. With the first glass they congratulate each other as the clock strikes 12 times and fireworks fill the sky. The week before the New Year is a busy one with shopping, parties at work, decorating pine and fir-trees, and cooking most delicious meals. The main folk heroes of this holiday are Father Frost (Did Moroz) and his grand-daughter “Sniguron’ka” (The Snow Girl). The tradition of predicting fortunes on this night is very popular among young people. A peculiar tradition includes writing down on a piece of paper your wish for the coming year, then dropping it in to your champagne and drinking it as the clock stikes twelve times. Another “fun” folk tradition practiced mainly in the villages on New Year night is for the unmarried girls to go outside and throw one of their boots over the Hosts’ fence. Whichever way the toe of the boot ends up pointing indicates where the future husband will come from. Nearly all businesses remain closed from December 31st to January 8th.
The period from the 7th until the 14th of January is Saint Christmas week. During this week people go from one house to another, singing songs and wishing good wishes to health, prosperity, etc. and just having a good time. Most usually are dressed in folksy or carnival type costumes. Such activity is called “Kolyaduvannya” and “Schedruvannya”. The songs are called “kolyadky” and “schedrivky”. When somebody is singing these songs and greeting you, as a rule you should give them sweets or food or drinks or whatever you have as a token of appreciation. It is believed that everything that the people have sung in their Kolyadka and Schedrivka will come true. Also during the New Year holidays, up to the 14th of January it is common for kids (and sometimes adults-in the villages) to go from one house to another wishing the owner of the house New Year wishes, new happiness, health, etc. All those wishes are usually said in rhymes and with the spreading of seeds, such as wheat or other grains. This shows a wish of prosperity for the house. This practice is called “Posivannya”. Some token, usually food, drink, sweets, or money, is usually given in return.
International Women’s Day is considered the first Spring Holiday in Ukraine. It is an official day off as both men and women look forward to this holiday. It originated as a day of fighting for women’s rights, when on the 8th of March 1897 women (workers of sewing and shoe factories) gathered in New York demanding 10 hour working days, light and dry work places and equal salaries with men. In 1910 at the International Conference of Women Socialists in Copenhagen, Clara Tsetkin proposed celebrating the International Women’s day on March, 8th which sounded an appeal to all women of the world to join in the struggle for equality. The International Women’s day on March, 8th has been a State Holiday of the Former Soviet Union since the countries inception. Beginning in 1965 it was recognized as an official day off. The Holiday enjoyed vast celebratory rituals, including public meetings involving officials at various levels of government in an attempt to report the government’s efforts in supporting Women’s Rights and issues concerning them.
Two weeks following the Catholic Easter Holiday is the main Christian Orthodox Holiday established to honor the Resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifiction on the cross and to the coming out of the Jews from Egypt. The date of Easter is usually determined by the Church calendar and calculated according to the so-called “Paskhalias” (the name for the “special tables”.) Before and during Easter Ukrainians buy or bake Easter cakes (biscuits with raisins) and hand paint eggs widely known as Pysanka. It is a very important holiday. On Easter night people go to their local church, spending the entire night in Church services! Usually they take with them Easter cakes, painted eggs, and bottles of wine. In the morning (about 4 am) the service concludes with the clergyman sprinkling all food with sacred water which is believed to give strong healing powers. At this time people return home to continue the celebration with food and drink throughout the day. The traditional greeting on this day is: “Khrystos Voskres!” (Christ is arisen) and the answer “Voyistynu Voskres!” (Truly arisen) followed with kisses and the exchanging of gifts.
This holiday is dedicated to the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of Christ (Easter). This event gave rise to Christianity. The meaning of the Holy Trinity is thus: God the Father laid the basis for the church in the Old Testament; the Son brought its meaning into words, and the Spirit acts within it. On this holiday people decorate their houses and apartments with Calamus (an herb) and assorted green branches. This tradition comes from ancient Judaism, in which the Pentecost, the Feast of Harvest, was celebrated outside amongst flourishing Nature. On Holy Trinity Day people go to a cemetery to visit the tombs of relatives and friends who have passed away. In this holiday has emerged the custom of leaving food on the burial tombs of loved ones though no one claims its significance or relevance to Christianity. Traditionally people leave some vodka or other alcohol and something to eat along with it, such as a piece of bread or candy. It is considered a good sign to find that the food and drinks have disappeared upon your next trip to the cemetery! Holy Trinity Day is a very important religious holiday in Ukraine.
The 1st of May historically has been the traditional holiday of spring. During the Industrialization of the Nineteenth Century, it became an International Day of Solidarity for workers of all countries. The 1st of May began to be widely celebrated with various groups of workers joining together and paying tribute to the memory of victims of oppression and for the rights of all oppressed workers irrespective of their nationality, sex, age and/or profession. In it’s convention of 1888 the “American Federation of Labour” declared, that May the1st should become a day for the active struggle of workers for the eight-hour work day. Strikes and Demonstrations were held worldwide. Later, in the former Soviet Union, this holiday was widely and actively celebrated with huge parades and political speeches on Red Square in Moscow and in all other cities.
This is a holiday of both joy and sorrow. A great tribute is bestowed to those who gave their lives during World War II resulting in today’s peace and happiness. The eternal memory of those lost will last forever throughout the generations. Veterans gather together remembering those who perished. Every city has an area on this holiday in which people gather called “The Eternal Fire”. In Kyiv it is located near the famous WWII museum and the “Motherland” Statue and Monument.
Independence Day is Ukraine’s largest State holiday, which commemorates the adoption in 1990 of the “Declaration of Sovereignty” of Ukraine. Impressive fireworks displays and noteworthy concerts are throughout the country.
NOTE: If any of the above official holidays fall on Saturday or Sunday, it is customary for the following Monday to be an official public holiday also. The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine may also transfer Monday or Friday” work days” to the preceding or following Saturday ONLY if any of the above holidays fall on the corresponding Tuesday or Thursday.
Ivan Kupala Day is one of the great and enigmatic holidays signifying a celebration in honour of the “God of the Sun” (or “Dazhbog”). It is believed that during this time of summer solstice, the sun is strongest, before turning to the winter. They say that the Sun is a personification of light, celebrating its victory over dark forces, so as it rises it’s “playing”, “leaping” and feeling joyful. All Nature is also joyful because of this, becoming special and charmed. The name of the holiday is bound to the name of “Kupajla”, who is the “Divinity of Fertility”, of the harvest, welfare and medicinal healing herbs and plants. Traditional ceremonies are timed so as to celebrate in honour of youth, beauty, love and purification. On the 6th of July people set off for the gathering of medical herbs and plants. They gather healing herbs at dawn, far from the settlements and paths, all in a good mood and praying. Folklore has it that besides medical properties Kupal’s'ki plants have a considerable magical effect. The main Kupal’s'ki ceremonies were taking place at night 6 – 7 July. Kupala night is a special night. Not only is it the most mysterious and enigmatic but also the most dissolute night of the year. The people believed that all Kupala’s articles like chaplets, sprigs of sapling, ash, dew and other items had had not only healing properties but also considerable guarding forces from impure spirits as well as witches, which were thought to be very active on Kupala’s night. All night long people keep Kupala bonfires burning, leaping over the flames, cleansing themselves of ill and bad luck.
The remnants of the bonfire are distributed to the participants, and maybe taken home, to protect against evil forces. It was considered a good sign for their future if young people, while jumping over the fire, would keep their hands locked and their clothes unsigned. Mothers burn shirts of ill children in the Kupala fire as illnesses are believed to burn away with it. The next ceremony consists of purifying by another element – water. Girls try to dive in the water in such a way, that a chaplet from their hair would float on the surface of the water. Sometimes girls were sending their own personal chaplet with candles alit floating to the other side of the river or lake as the young men would try to capture the chaplet of his favorite girl. If not able to reach it from shore, some would impatiently jump in the water and retrieve the girls’ chaplet. A kiss awaits the bearer of each chaplet.
Especially enigmatic were recitals relating to fern blossoms on Kupala night. In order to see it, you have to go at night to the fern bush to spread under it a linen or towel on which the Easter cake was sanctified. Next you must draw around yourself a circle with the knife sanctified in the Church, sprinkle the plant with sanctified water and read a prayer. Impure forces then try to drive away and scare the man; wind, noise, blowing small rocks and twigs. It will not, however, be able to overcome the outlined circle. That is why you need to “fear not”. At midnight the fern begins to bloom and fall on the linen. This is when you need to rap the linen quickly and hide it with the fern blossoms in your bosom. Such bravery rewards the person who did this to inherit the power to see how trees walk from one place to another. To understand the language of birds, animals, plants and trees. He will be able to locate treasure hidden in the ground and retrieve it.
The highlight of the ritual is a decoration of the sacral sapling – “kupaily” (kupailytsi, gil’tsya, madder). Usually it is the branch of a willow, cherry or ash tree, decorated by field flowers, paper ribbons, and burning candles. Girls dance and sing about love and marriage around the “Kupaily”. It is then dipped in water and broken into pieces and given to the girls, “so they would attain riches”. The Kupal’ska ritual is highly symbolic. Kupal’s'ki fires symbolize a cult of the Sun. Kupal’s'ka water is a symbol of healing power. A fern is a symbol of a happy future. Magic Ivanivs’ka dew provides beauty and love, and the Kupala tree denotes fertility and happiness. The Kupala ritual, as with Ukrainians, was widespread not only among the Slavic people, but also included other segments of Europe and even India. In particular, Bulgarians believed that on Kupala the Sun is “dancing” and “twirling the sabers”. Polish girls baked ceremonial “sun” cakes while Englishmen sought out the fern, not for the sake of the blossom of a burning flower, but for its seeds which can make a man invisible.