Culture of Ukraine
[coverattach=1]The Culture of Ukraine is a result of influence over millennia from the West and East, with an assortment of strong culturally-identified ethnic groups. Like most Western countries, Ukrainian customs are heavily influenced by Christianity. Russian and other Eastern European cultures also have had a more or less significant impact on the Ukrainian culture.
Religion is practiced throughout the country—Orthodox Christianity and Eastern Catholicism are the two most widely practiced religions; Protestantism and Judaism are also well represented. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the largest in the country. Faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the second largest, practice Byzantine rites but are united with the Roman Catholic Church.
Ukrainians generally carry themselves in a very polite, civilized manner. Men often hold the door open for a woman when she enters a building, stand up when a woman enters the room, and, if there is a shortage of seats, men will give up their seats to the women. In rural areas, men will sometimes kiss a woman's hand, but this is starting to go out of fashion.
According to convention, when standing at a threshold (doorsill), do not shake hands or offer anything to be taken by the person on the other side. A young unmarried man or woman should not be seated at a table's corner. Always buy an odd number of flowers as a gift, unless it is a funeral. In that case, it is appropriate to buy an even number. When passing through the aisles in a theater or elsewhere, it is polite to face the people sitting down.
Food is an important part to the Ukrainian culture. Special foods are used at Easter as well as Christmas, that are not made at any other time of the year. At Christmas time, for example, kutia - a mixture of cooked buckwheat groats, poppy seeds, and honey, and special sweet breads - is prepared.[coverattach=2]
An average Ukrainian diet consists of fish, cheeses and a variety of sausages. Head cheese is also quite popular in Ukraine as well as Kovbasa, a type of sausage. Typically bread is a core part of every meal, and must be included for the meal to be "complete." At Christmas time, for example, it is tradition to have a twelve-course meal. Included at Easter are the famous pysanky (coloured and patterned eggs). Making these eggs is a long process, and they are not actually eaten, but displayed in the centre of the table (usually around the bread).
Ukrainians often toast to good health, linger over their meal, and engage in lively conversation with family and friends. Often they will drink tea (chai), wine, or coffee afterwards with a simple dessert, such as a fruit pastry.
Salo (salted pork fat with garlic);
Borshch (a vegetable based soup, usually with beets and beef or pork meat);
Holubtsi (cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and meat usually);
Varenyky (stuffed dumplings, also known as perogies or pyrohy);
Pampushky (a fried, dessert version of varenyky, filled with fruit instead of meat or cheese).
[coverattach=3]A Ukrainian style of dancing is called Kalyna. Both men and women participate in this type of dancing.
The women wear colourful costumes, sometimes featuring a solid-coloured (usually blue, green, red, or black) tunic and matching apron, and under that an open skirt, and below that a white skirt with an embroidered hem that should reach an inch or so below the knee. If they wear a tunic, then under that they wear a long-sleeved richly embroidered white shirt. Traditionally, women wear a type of red leather boots to dance in. They also wear a beautiful flower head piece (vinok), that is a headband covered with flowers and has long flowing ribbons down the back that flow when they dance, and plain red coral necklaces.
The men wear baggy pants (usually blue, white, black or red) and a shirt (usually white, but sometimes black) embroidered at the neck and down the stomach. Over the shirt they sometimes will wear a richly embroidered vest. Around their waist they wear a thick sash with fringed ends. Like the women, they wear boots, but these can be black or white in addition to red.
Kalyna dancing involves partner dancing. One dance, called the previtanya, is a greeting dance. It is slow and respectful, the women bow to the audience and present bread with salt on a cloth and flowers. Another, called the hopak is much more lively, and involves many fast-paced movements. Hence hopak as a dance is derived from hopak martial art of Cossacks.