The Holidays Begin: St. Nicholas Day!
The beginning of the Christmas holidays for Ukrainians is St. Nicholas Day (which we celebrate on the 19th due to the calendar difference). Because of that, I will be taking the holiday season off and won't be back until Feb. 1, 2021 with a full episode.
In the meantime, here's some information about how Ukrainians celebrate St. Nicholas:
* Ukrainians exchange gifts on St. Nicholas Day instead of Christmas Eve or Christmas Day because on this day we celebrate St. Nicholas - and he's the one who propagated gift-giving during the winter season
* On the evening of Dec. 18-19, Ukrainian parents leave gifts under their children's pillows (if they were bad, they get wooden rods - which the parents could then beat the children with!)
* When St. Nick comes by - he's accompanied by an angel and a devil
*Traditionally, Ukrainian elders of the villages would gather on this day and brew themselves some wheat beer. They would also go around blessing their grain and livestock (since winter was beginning and they needed extra luck getting the grain and cattle through the winter)
*There's also some superstition and pseudo-Groundhog Day like traditions that are associated with St. Nick: if there's frost in the morning, the harvest will be good; if the road is covered with snow, the winter will be long and cold; if there's a lot of snow on St. Nicholas day, there will be the same amount of grass on May 22 (St. Nicholas' other name day)
*Parents also told children that when it snows, it's St. Nicholas shaking his beard!
*Obviously, St. Nicholas Day is associated with gift-giving and this tradition is still observed even among a war:
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Chag Chanukah Sameach, Веселих Свят!