The most important part of Christmas Eve celebrations is Holy Supper known as Sviata Vechera. Dinner table has a little hay on embroidered tablecloths to symbolize the manger of Bethlehem where Christ was born. Children announce the appearance of the first Star in the eastern evening sky and dinner is begun. The star symbolizes the trek of the Three Wise Men. While the head of the household brings a sheaf of wheat called 'didukh' (meaning grandfather spirit) in the home in the agricultural communities to symbolize family's ancestors and to emphasize the importance of the ancient and rich wheat crops of Ukraine that has been the staff of life of the Ukrainians through the centuries. In cities, people decorate their dinner table with a few stalks of golden wheat in a vase as 'Didukh'.
Sviata Vechera starts with a prayer. Then, the father says the
traditional Christmas greeting, 'Khristos rodyvsya!' or 'Khristos
razhdayetsya' (meaning Christ is born!). Then, the other family members
answer him by saying 'Slavite Yoho!' (meaning Let Us Glorify Him!). At
the end of the supper, the family often sings Kolyadky or Ukrainian
Christmas Carols. Still, in many communities, the old tradition of
caroling is being continued as young people or church members go from
door to door to collect donations. The most popular Ukrainian carol is
'Boh predvichny', some glorify Ukraine while others are ancient pagan
songs converted into Christian carols.
Church services start before midnight on Christmas Eve and continue
until Christmas mornings. In the past, Father Frost used to bring gifts
to Ukrainian children on 19th of December but now the date has been
changed to the Christmas date. He rides a sleigh to which only three
reindeers are harnessed. Snowflake Girl helps Father Frost in his
journey. She wears silver blue costume trimmed with white fur and a
snowflake-like crown. Traditional Ukrainian Christmas customs were full
of colors and gaiety. Christmas was celebrated on 7th of January here as
a peaceful and quiet event to remind us of the Christ born in Bethlehem.