Ukraine Gift Giving Customs

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Flag of Ukraine

Capital: Kyiv [1]

Official Language: Ukrainian (official language), Russian

Currency: Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH)

National Holiday: Independence Day, August 24th

More Ukrainian Holidays


Ukraine, is one of the largest countries in Eastern Europe, bordered by Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova. Rich in culture and history, the Ukraine offers tourist a wide variety of attractions. Those that enjoy historical adventures can explore the country's interesting past, for the outdoorsey-type they can find beautiful places to hike or ski, or for those that want to be pampered there are beautiful health spas that offer hot and cold springs. If you are planning a trip to Ukraine educate yourself about the culture and Ukranian etiquette.

Gift Giving Etiquette in the Ukraine

Gift Giving in the Ukraine

  • If invited to a Ukrainian home, the Ukrainian gift giving custom is to bring flowers, a bottle of imported liquor, chocolates or pastries.
  • Make sure that gifts are nicely wrapped and do not expect them to be opened right away. Gifts are generally not opened when received.
  • Ukraine gift giving typically takes place between family and close friends for birthdays and the Orthodox Christmas.
  • Ukrainians celebrate their birthday but also "name days", some choose to celebrate just their name day and others will celebrate both. Each first name has been assigned to one or more days of the calendar, these days are based on the birth date of saints. Name day celebrations can range from receiving greeting cards and flowers, to having a celebration similar to a birthday party.
  • Gifts do not have to be expensive. It is the act of giving the gift that is important to Ukrainians because it is a symbol of friendship.
  • When conducting business in the Ukraine, gifts are not typically exchanged at a first meeting.
  • When giving a gift of flowers, only give in odd numbers; and avoid yellow flowers, along with white lilies, as they are for funerals.

Ukrainian New Year's and Christmas Traditions


The most popular holiday in Ukraine is New Year's Eve, celebrated December 31st. New Year's Eve is a family-oriented holiday, typically everyone gathers together and celebrates. New Year's Eve in Ukraine is a special holiday, much like Christmas celebrations in the United States. People celebrate by decorating the New Year tree, giving each other gifts, sending greeting cards, having parties and watching New Year's television shows. On New Year's the President gives a speech moments prior to the clock striking twelve, then people drink champagne and fireworks fill the sky.

Father Frost, called Ded Moroz and Little Snowflake, called Princess Snigorichka are the popular folklore characters of the New Year's celebration. Father Frost plays a role similar to that of Santa Claus, accompanied by Little Snowflake they deliver gifts.

In the Ukraine the celebration of Christmas is a very important family holiday, Christmas traditions can vary significantly in different parts of the Ukraine. Ukrainian Christmas traditions are based not only on Christian traditions, but also pagan roots.

Ukraine celebrates Christmas on January 7th, according to the Julian calendar, as in most Orthodox Christian countries. In Ukraine, Christmas Eve (January 6th) is the most important part of the Christmas celebration and very much a religious celebration. The Christmas Eve meal, served in the evening is known as the "Holy Supper", and consists of twelve dishes or courses. Each dish or course represents one of the twelve apostles that shared the last supper with Jesus. The dishes are meatless and do not contain dairy products, the meal consists of grains, fish, vegetables and fruits.

Christmas Eve Dishes:

  • kutia - the main dish, which consists of boiled wheat grains with honey and poppy seed.
  • borshch - a beet soup
  • vushka - dumplings filled with mushrooms and onions
  • variety of fish - baked, broiled, pickled, fried, etc.
  • varenyky - boiled dumplings filled with cabbage, potatoes, grains, or prunes
  • cooked beans
  • holubtsi - stuffed cabbage
  • uzvar - stewed fruits, which contains twelve different fruits

The dinner table is covered with an embroidered table cloth with hay placed underneath, as a reminder of the manger in Bethlehem. Also, at the center of the table is kolach (Christmas bread), a braided bread in the shape of a ring, three rings of bread are placed on top of the other, this is a symbol three rings symbolize the Trinity and the ring-shape represents Eternity. The meal is served in the evening, once the children of the family see the first star in the sky. This Ukrainian Christmas custom is derived from the birth of Christ, and the star of Bethlehem and the beginning of the wise men’s journey to see the Christ child. At midnight the family attends a special Christmas service to hear the story of the birth of Christ.

Another Christmas tradition is for families to sing Ukrainian Christmas Carols. In many Ukrainian communities, people of all ages from members of churches and organizations gather together to participate in the old Ukrainian custom of carolling. Carollers go around to different homes, they are eagerly greeted and they collect donations.

Ukraine-Easter Basket.jpg

Ukrainian Easter Traditions

Easter is the major Ukrainian religious holiday, but many Easter customs and traditions have combined Christian and pagan practices. One Ukrainian Easter tradition that has become known worldwide is Pysanky, which is the art of decorating eggs with elaborate designs. In ancient times many Ukrainians believed that these decorated eggs possessed magical powers and that you could become rich by decorating the eggs with certain symbols. When the Christian religion was introduced in the Ukraine, the color and decorations on the eggs changed to represent Christianity and the rebirth of man.

Ukrainian Easter celebrations begin on Saturday evening with a church service. This church service goes on throughout the, some people will attend the entire service and some will arrive for the culmination of the service, in the morning. Also, the Easter service includes the ringing of the church bells at midnight.

Another interesting Ukrainian Easter custom is the baking of paska, a round bread with elaborate dough decorations. The primary decoration is in the shape of a cross, additional decorations may include tiny birds and flowers. This bread is included within the Easter basket that is assembled along with other traditional Ukrainian foods. Each family will bring the basket to church on Easter Sunday to receive the blessing of the priest. After the Easter church service the family will share the food for a special Easter breakfast.

If you are planning a trip to Ukraine, you may find the following tips helpful:

Toasting with vodka.jpg
  • When visiting a Ukranians home, you may be expected to remove your shoes, typically the host/hostess will have slippers for guests to wear.
  • A very important part of Ukraine's culture is toasting, most toasts are given with vodka. Ukrainians can be suspicious of people that do not drink, if you do not drink be prepared to offer an excuse such as a medical issue.
  • When drinking to a toast, be sure to drink down your shot of vodka in one gulp.
  • It is considered bad luck to shake hands across the threshold of a doorway.

Related Pages



  1. Ukraine