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Ukraine’s Customes and Traditions
Ukraine’s customs and traditions absorbed the experience of many generations of people who lived in the country during its long history. They have become an integral part of the national culture.
Traditions and customs vary regionally within Ukraine. There are significant cultural differences between city and village, West and East Ukraine. You will find that some Ukrainian customs are compatible with your own. Some of them you will consider irrational or incomprehensible. They are neither "good" nor "bad". They just belong to another culture.
Unlike people of most western countries Ukrainians tend to express their emotions freely. No matter whether they are positive or negative. Don't be confused when you see that. People in the streets don't usually smile too much, but very soon you will realize that an ability to form warm informal relationships is the main feature of the Ukrainian national character.
National traditions are like a heart of the national culture. They determine the way people live: their language, religious belief, life values, social relationships, material goods - food, clothing, buildings, tools, etc.
Ukrainians are traditionally family oriented people. Pretty often parents (or grandparents) live together with their children and help them to raise the kids. This tradition was a necessity when just a couple generations ago the majority of Ukrainians lived in the villages. It is a Ukrainian custom that grandparents play a great role in raising children. They say: "Children are our future." Sometimes parents and grandparents sound overprotective. But without any doubt they try to do their best to bring their children up as decent people.
Ukrainians are well known for their hospitality.They love to invite people to their homes or to visit their friends or relatives. Traditional Ukraine customs are to put all the best food on the table and to feed the guest once he entered their home. Ukrainian parties are not about food only. It is a long process with plenty of eating, drinking, and conversation.
In Ukraine you will never meet such thing as militant feminism. A lady-policeman twisting arms of some criminal will seem an absurdity to Ukrainians. According to the Ukraine customs it is typically for older generations when the wife does the cleaning and cooking, while the husband is responsible for all "technical jobs". Among younger generations to work around the home together is more typical.
Ukraine’s customs and traditions determine the style of public behavior. Ukrainians are brought up to avoid attracting attention to themselves. They usually speak quietly in public. To sit or lay on the floor is inappropriate in public places.
Ukrainian customs and traditions in cooking are based on a combination of fresh or pickled fruits and vegetables, meat, mushrooms, and herbs. Often they include a great number of ingredients and their unusual combinations. In Ukraine people tend to eat fatty food, such as whole milk, sour cream, butter, etc. Sometimes people even go to villages to get whole milk because it is considered to be beneficial for children. Ukrainian people like to cook. They practically don't eat junk food.
The description of Ukrainian cuisine would be incomplete without salo (pork fat). Sometimes Ukrainians joke: "Salo is our national pride". Placing a thin sliced salo on black bread with garlic and salt will make it especially delicious.
Some curious fact about salo. In the mountains at high altitude alpinists usually lose their appetite. Very often they can't even look at food without negative emotions. Salo is practically the only product, which doesn't cause food troubles at high altitude.
It is hard to name a nation, that would respect bread as much as Ukrainians do. During many centuries Ukrainians were strongly attached to their land and its fruits. Bread was regarded as one of the holiest foods. The cult of bread is well observed in Ukraine’s customs and rituals.
Hosts often give their guests a loaf of bread with salt on the top. The ritual of offering a guest bread and salt is a ceremony of welcome which dates back many centuries. "The Bread and Salt" tradition is very symbolic in Slavic culture. It can symbolize many things. During wedding ceremonies in Ukraine instead of the customary wedding cake, traditional bread called Korovai, is served. It symbolizes a new-family birth and its future prosperity.
There are a lot of superstitions which are well-known: black cats, lucky horseshoes, broken mirrors, scattered salt, Friday the 13th, etc. etc. Sounds familiar, right?
Superstitions are the oldest beliefs in the world. They are rooted in the culture and touch every aspect of daily life: luck-fate, happy-sad, life-death, sanity-madness, good-bad, and male-female. Everyone knows them and jokes about them. However, many who say that they don't believe them avoid breaking them because they "don't want to tempt fate". "Just in case."
As for Ukrainian customs, rituals, and superstitions, we have to remember that for hundreds of years the Orthodox Church in Ukraine coexisted beautifully with ancient Pagan traditions. Superstitions are part of our cultural heritage. That's why elements of mysticism and irrationality are the noticeable part of Ukrainian mentality.
So, never shake hands, give keys or anything else in the doorway. It may bring misfortune to your guest. Never leave an empty bottle on the table, but if a bottle is opened, drink up.
Try to sit between two people with the same name. It will bring you luck.
Don't be alarmed when somebody spits three times over his left shoulder or sits on his luggage before going on a trip.
Most of those people love God, but try not to make the devil angry either. Just in case.
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