December 13, 2017

Holidays

  • 1 January New Year's Day On New Yearís Day, everything is closed except some small grocery stores. Many people stay up all night, usually partying or simply watching TV with their family and friends. Because they believe that they will spend the year the way they have welcomed it, many prefer to spend the New Year in some extraordinary way. For instance, they might go somewhere far from home or just do something more exciting than watching TV. Also, people give each other presents, similar to Christmas in the West. One difference, however, is the imaginary present giver--Santa. In Ukraine, he is called Dyed Moroz (Grandfather Frost), rather thin, and often dressed in blue. Homes are usually decorated with a yolka, a small Christmas tree. Although western Christmas traditions and trappings are growing in popularity, New Yearís Day remains the most important holiday in Ukraine.
  • 7 January Orthodox Christmas When the Communists took over, this Orthodox holiday was cancelled. After Ukraine gained its independence from the Soviet Union, the holiday was restored and now is an official holiday--a day off. One tradition still kept is cooking a hot wheat cereal called kutya. It is usually served with poppy seeds, raisins, and honey. Since they keep a limited fast for a month prior to Christmas, this holiday tradition comes as a long awaited treat for the Orthodox faithful.
  • 13 January Old New Yearís Day This holiday came about because of a mistake in the Gregorian calendar that was used for a long time. After the 1917 Revolution, Ukraine switched to the western calendar; Ukraine was 13 days behind the rest of the world. However, even though the official calendar was switched, many people did not want to change and others refused to celebrate New Year before Christmas. Now, this old-style New Yearís Day has been carried over to the modern age, and is still kept, though not as strongly as the original. It is not a day off.
  • 23 February Former Red Army Day During the Soviet Union, this holiday was for all who had ever served in the military. Since about 90% of men were at some point connected to the Red Army, it simply became a holiday for men. It does not have any official status now, but many see it as a day when women are supposed to be nice to the opposite sex; some presents may be involved. Many men celebrate by getting drunk.
  • 8 March Women's Day The origin of this holiday is buried somewhere in Germany; it was dedicated to two bold revolutionary women, Clara and Rosa, who gave their lives to the cause of Communism. At first, this day was to celebrate their sacrifice, but then it became a holiday of women's triumph. It is now a national holiday and a day off. Flowers usually cost double, and all the stores have special hours. You might have guessed already that on this day presents are a must for the women in your life. The holiday is something like a cross between the American Valentine's Day and Mother's Day.
  • Orthodox Easter Usually, Orthodox Easter comes the Sunday after the rest of the world celebrates Easter; however, in some years, it does not follow this pattern. To learn more, visit www.brama.com/art/easter.html. One important tradition closely associated with Easter in Ukraine is Veliky Post or Lent. It lasts 40 days, and one is not supposed to eat any meat, eggs, or fat. It ends very early in the morning Easter Sunday when throughout Orthodox churches, priests start a festive liturgy. Actually, the service for Easter begins on Saturday evening. Throughout that night and Sunday morning, many flood church buildings and church yards bringing with them special baskets of traditional Easter food: paskha or Easter bread, colored eggs called pysanky, and sometimes sausage, to be blessed by the priest (shown here). Finally, at about 4 AM, the priest exits the church and circles the building three times. During his walk, the priest blesses the food by sprinkling holy water on it. Most people leave the service after their food is blessed and hurry home to have a special holiday meal with their family. Everyone is to eat a part of the blessed bread and one of the Easter eggs. One other tradition on Easter is to play a game with boiled eggs--egg cracking: two people take one egg each and try to crack each other's egg by striking them together. Whoever has a broken shell loses. Children donít hide eggs like in the USA. On Easter, instead of the normal hello, people also greet each other with Hristos voskres or "Jesus is risen," and the reply is Voistinu voskres or "Risen indeed."
  • 26 April Chernobyl Day April 26, 1986, at 3:40 AM, a powerful explosion occurred in the third and fourth reactor blocks of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. A fire started immediately. A small team of local firemen without any safety gear or special equipment went to put it out. Most of them died within a week, being in a coma with severe radiation burns of internal organs. For the next 3 days, the government tried to keep information about the accident classified, thereby allowing the population of the town of Chernobyl, a distance of 2 miles from the nuclear blastís epicenter, to remain unaware of the extreme health risk. Finally, by May 2, after a major state holiday, and after labs all over the world reported unexpected radiation emissions from Ukraine, the Communists finally admitted there had been an accident and started evacuating people from nearby towns, creating a closed zone of 40x40 miles, with the nuclear plant in the center. The evacuation took around 3 days and still the Communists lied--telling people that the evacuation was only temporary, forcing people to leave, abandoning all of their property. Those people were never able to return. As people were evacuated, the military came in. Many untrained 18-year-old "soldiers" had to work in highly dangerous areas without receiving any special training. A video of ten-member teams shows work on the reactor roof being done in shifts of 1 minute. They would come to the zone, work one minute, and leave it for good.

    Today, the 40 mile zone is still closed; there are police guard posts at the entry to the ghost cities of Chernobyl and Pripyat. However, regardless of the authoritiesí attempts to keep the area closed, several dozen people, mostly senior citizens, have returned to their Chernobyl-area homes--the only homes they have. In February 2001, the first child was born in the zone. People live there off their land and rely only on themselves since there are no authorities, hospitals, or stores. Once a week or so, a car comes delivering bread and some necessary supplies, keeping the zone denizens in touch with the world.

    The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant was permanently shut down on December 15, 2000, nine years after the explosion. A concrete sarcophagus encases the ruptured sarcophagi. There are no plans to restart the damaged reactor. Both the US and Ukrainian governments claim radiation levels are safe in Kyiv.

    On April 26, people all over Ukraine thank the firemen, workers, and soldiers who gave their lives and health. Ceremonies at Chernobyl monuments highlight the remembrance. As a note of respect, many people keep their headlights on throughout the day. A small Kyiv museum in Podil (Kontraktova Ploshad metro) chronicles the worldís worst nuclear accident.

  • 1, 2 May Labor Day or May Day A purely Communist holiday--celebration of the triumph of the worker, the proletariat. Workers of different government-owned companies, which were around 100% of companies, used to be required to attend their holiday. They would be dragged to a parade to celebrate and to show their happiness to the country leaders and to the workers who were not required to participate in the parade this year. Nowadays, it's more like another remnant of Communism that refuses to die, but the government respects it to keep the remaining Communists happy. It precedes another big holiday, Victory Day, and often the combo of May 1, 2, and 9 makes a week-long holiday for the whole country.

  • 9 May Victory Day Due to the closeness of this holiday to May Day, often the first week of May is a week free from work. This day commemorates the victory of the world over fascism, the end of World War II. On May 9, 1945, Germany capitulated. Over 20 million persons from the Soviet Union died in the war. Kyiv was nearly destroyed as was much of Ukraine. There are only a few veterans left today, but they are still remembered. Numerous monuments to the Great Patriotic War (World War II) are cleaned up in preparation for this day, and people lay flowers at these monuments to commemorate the war dead. As a national holiday, it is probably second only to the New Year holiday in importance.

  • monument to the founders of KyivKyiv Day Kyiv Day is usually celebrated on the last weekend of May. For two days, festive events throughout the city and especially downtown draw huge crowds. On Saturday night, a huge concert at the main city square with famous Ukrainian singers and bands entertains about 500,000 people. Many people from the suburbs come into town to have fun after a long work week. Andriivsky Spusk, a long cobblestone descent in the city center, serves as a popular gathering spot for hundreds of artists from all over Ukraine, particularly on Saturday and Sunday. In addition to the inconvenience caused by huge crowds of drunk people, it is usually hard to get anywhere, eat out, or do anything outside. The day is usually followed by fireworks at about 10 PM.

  • Holy Trinity Day Fifty days after Easter comes Holy Trinity Day in honor of the Holy Spirit who poured himself out on the apostles on Pentecost and gave birth to the church. Most people get off work. Buying reeds and placing them on your apartmentís floor is a way to receive a blessing on this day. The greenery is a reminder of the new life that comes through baptism.

  • Independence Day On August 24, 1991, after a Communist attempt to take over the Soviet Union and remove Gorbachev from power, Ukraine broke away and declared Ukraine an independent state. On December 6, 1991, the first president was elected, and the independence decision was confirmed by a national referendum. The separation was peaceful. There is a big fireworks celebration and numerous concerts every year on Kreshatik at Independence Square, around the monument celebrating Ukrainian Independence (shown here). Many see the holiday as the closing of the summer season.

  • 1 September Day of Knowledge On September 1st ,or First Bell, children go to school, university students return to campuses, and all the educational institutions start a new school year. The most spectacular events are at elementary schools where kids bring teachers flowers and a festive gathering of all the school students in front of the building or at the school stadium feature the ringing of the first bell. A first-year child, usually a girl, is carried by a graduating student, normally a boy, and she rings a bell, thus, opening a new school year. They do the same thing on May 25, the closing of the school year and ending of studies.

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