We all know that this year’s Edmonton Heritage Festival has migrated online. At World FM, we wanted to help raise excitement for the release of the online Heritage Festival experience on August 1st. Click HERE to check out the website and read more about what they have planned.


We want to take this week to introduce our audience to some of the different cultures we show on World FM. Today we’re going to learn about Ukraine straight from the source: Yulianna Voloshyna, the host of our Ukrainian show Monday – Friday 6 – 7 PM!


Without further ado, here are words from Yulianna herself: 



Let me introduce my home country – Ukraine. It is a country very rich in traditions, where the observance of certain customs and practices plays a central role in its culture. Younger generations gladly adopt and follow these rituals, making them even more vivid and up-to-date.


Facts and Statistics about Ukraine


Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Poland, Romania, and Moldova in the west and Russia in the east.


Capital: Kyiv (Kiev)


Climate: Temperate continental; the Mediterranean only on the southern Crimean coast; precipitation disproportionately distributed, highest in west and north, lesser in east and southeast; winters vary from cool along the Black Sea to cold farther inland; summers are warm across the greater part of the country, hot in the south


Population: 44 million (2019 est.)


Ethnic Make-up: Ukrainian 77.8%, Russian 17.3%, Belarusian 0.6%, Moldovan 0.5%, Crimean Tatar 0.5%, Bulgarian 0.4%, Hungarian 0.3%, Romanian 0.3%, Polish 0.3%, Jewish 0.2%, other 1.8%

Religions: Ukrainian Orthodox – Kyiv Patriarchate 19%, Orthodox (no particular jurisdiction) 16%, Ukrainian Orthodox – Moscow Patriarchate 9%, Ukrainian Greek Catholic 6%, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox 1.7%, Protestant, Jewish, none (atheists) 38%.


Despite the large numbers describing themselves are atheists, Ukrainians are extremely superstitious. If you do something that they believe can cause harm such as sitting on stone steps, someone will undoubtedly tell you that you risk doing great harm to yourself as a result of your actions. Superstitions are derived from folk wisdom in rural communities.


Language in Ukraine: Ukrainian is the official state language; it is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. The language shares some vocabulary with the languages of the neighboring Slavic nations, most notably with Belarusian, Polish, Russian, and Slovak.


The Ukrainian language traces its origins to the Old East Slavic language of the early medieval state of Kievan Rus’. In its earlier stages, it was called Ruthenian. The language has persisted despite several periods of bans and/or discouragement throughout centuries as it has always nevertheless maintained a sufficient base among the people of Ukraine, its folklore songs, itinerant musicians, and prominent authors.


Ukraine possesses a wealth of cultural talent and a considerable cultural legacy. Numerous writers have contributed to the country’s literary history. Impressive monuments of architecture and museums displaying works by generations of Ukrainian artists can be found throughout the country, and art galleries featuring contemporary Ukrainian artists have become commonplace in larger urban centers. The country’s strong tradition of folk art also continues to this day. In addition, high-caliber performing artists and ensembles appear regularly in Ukraine’s numerous theatres and concert halls.


The Arts


Nineteenth-century Ukrainian writers greatly contributed to the reawakening of Ukrainian national consciousness under the Russian Empire. The classicist poet and playwright Ivan Kotlyarevsyky. may be considered the first modern Ukrainian author. In his work Eneyida (1798), he transformed the heroes of Virgil’s Aeneid into Ukrainian Cossacks. Classicist prose appeared only with Hryhorii Kvitka-Osnovianenko’s novel Marusya (1834).


The most important 19th-century Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko, treated Ukrainian history and Russian oppression, as well as broader themes. Panteleimon Kulish was another significant poet of the period.


Some interesting things about Ukrainian Christmas

One of the most interesting Ukrainian Christmas Customs and traditions is the food Ukrainians prepare for Christmas. They take this tradition very seriously and responsibly, preparing 12 dishes for Christmas. Christmas eve is the last evening of the lent. According to the tradition, in the evening, one should not eat anything, until the first star appears in the sky, marking the birth of Jesus Christ. On the feast table, Ukrainians put 12 dishes, which symbolize the 12 apostles. The abundance of dishes is also called a Rich Dinner (Bohata Vecherya).



The Rich Dinner, as well as the Christmas feast of the next day, begin with kutia. It is one of the main dishes, cooked of wheat, barley or rice and seasoned with grated poppy seeds, nuts, honey, and nectar. It has a sacred meaning for the locals. After Christmas Eve, the dish was left overnight on the table so that the souls of the dead ancestors could also taste the treat. The first mention of the dish was made at the beginning of the 12th century in the chronicle of the ‘Tale of Past Years.’


Uzvar for Christmas is traditionally served along with kutia. In short, it is a compote of dried fruit and is one of the most common traditional drinks. Meanwhile, in the summer, uzvar is prepared from fresh berries; in autumn or winter, it is made from dried cherries, apples, pears, apricots, and other fruit. The name of the drink comes from the word ‘to brew’ or zavarivat in Ukrainian.



Traditionally, the vinigret is cooked from boiled potatoes, beets, carrots, and beans. You can also put raw onions and parsley and add marinated or pickled cucumbers. To make it as lean as possible, it is seasoned with oil, rather than any sauce. Such a set combines all the minerals and vitamins a person needs to boost energy during the fast. Despite the fact that vinigret is referred to as a snack food, it is served in Ukraine as a full-fledged dish.


Vareniki with potatoes:

Vareniki is a traditional Ukrainian dish and can definitely be named the locals’ favorite. It is a sort of dumpling with filling, which you may find at many feasts. For Christmas dinner, it is cooked from unleavened dough and stuffed with chopped vegetables, mushrooms, fruits, cottage cheese, or berries. Vereniki is usually served with smetana (sour cream), baked salo (pork fat) with onions or varenje (jam), and sugar, depending on the filling.


Cabbage soup:

Cabbage soup has different kinds of interpretations all over the world. It also has its own way of preparation in Ukraine and takes an important place on the Christmas table. The main ingredient of this soup is sauerkraut. Particularly in Ukrainian cuisine, cabbage is squeezed off from the brine, and, in case of increased acidity, it is pre-washed with water. It is sometimes cooked in a vegetarian style, however; there are varieties of recipes with mushrooms and broth.



In Ukrainian culture, pickles are incredibly popular. The most common are pickled cucumbers and tomatoes, but also mushrooms, watermelons, zucchini, sweet pepper, garlic, and even corn are known to be pickled. Brine is usually added with herbs and greens, coriander and horseradish for the saturated taste. Pickles are mostly served as a snack but also perfectly added to the main dish as a side.



Baked apples:

Depending on what ingredients you include in the recipe and how you serve it, the daily dietary dish turns into a cheerful festive treat. There are many ways to prepare it: apples baked in the oven with honey, in puff pastry, with cottage cheese, and with cinnamon. Baked apples are always extremely delicious and lean enough for Christmas.



Borscht (lean):

Although the key to fragrant borscht is in preparing it in a rich broth, the dish can also be cooked lean. Meat is replaced by a variety of vegetables, such as beans. Moreover, borscht has more than 20 other ingredients and is served with bread or patties. That is why lean borscht is a hearty dish but still does not contain too many calories.



Stuffed cabbage rolls:

Another course, which is a must-have among the 12 traditional dishes, despite its preparation, is a rather time-consuming process: Stuffed cabbage rolls, or holubtsi, is a meat or vegetable ground, wrapped in boiled cabbage leaves. Each region of the country prepares the dish in its own way. For instance, in the Carpathians, traditionally, cabbage rolls are cooked with corn grits; in the Poltava region (central Ukraine), it is customary to cook with buckwheat and cracklings.



Interesting things about Ukrainians


Being overemotional and loud:

Ukrainians are very friendly and welcoming. They love large groups and gatherings, always help each other and consider all people around them to be their best friends. Thus, if you happen to come to a party in Ukraine, don’t worry, you’ll definitely make some friends and will chat, laugh, and sing your favorite songs till dawn.


Painting eggs for Easter:

The most important elements in Easter are the krashenki – multicolored boiled eggs, as well as pysanka – painted eggs (the second-largest pysanka sculpture in the World is in Vegreville, AB). The pysanka has a very deep symbolic meaning because every detail of the patterns has some meaning. For example, the red color symbolizes the good and the joy of living. Yellow is for warmth and crops, while green means hope. Superstitious Ukrainians have been observing this tradition for many centuries and gladly continue to put heart and soul into this activity, even nowadays.



Pricing a bride at a wedding:

The tradition of buying a bride is as old as the Ukrainian wedding itself. In the past, such a rite had significant implications. Nowadays, though, this tradition is just an innocent game. Together with friends and an entourage, the groom participates in competitions and gets comic assignments in order to show that he is worthy of the bride.



Eating a piece of paper as the chimes strike twelve:

An absurd but funny custom in Ukraine is to put a piece of burnt paper in a glass of champagne and drink it at the New Year. It is believed that a written and swallowed wish will definitely come true. But the trickiest part is that you have to do it while the chimes are striking twelve.


Expressing gratitude through gifts:

In Ukraine, people pay a lot of attention to interpersonal relations. To express gratitude, locals usually buy flowers, chocolates, or alcohol and present it to someone who’s been very helpful.



Plunging into an ice hole:

Plunging into icy water on January 19 (Epiphany according to the Julian calendar) is a national tradition in Ukraine. However, the Epiphany frosts are considered the coldest, so people believe that it is impossible to get ill. On the contrary, the waters become holy on this day and heal from all the diseases. So, if you spot Ukrainians screaming but swimming in the icy waters in winter, do not be surprised, and keep this peculiar tradition in mind.





Head to heritagefest.ca between August 1st and 3rd to explore the virtual map and choose a pavilion to visit. Each country page is unique, and you’ll find performances, recipes, photos, history of the culture and their association, and more! Visit the Multicultural Market to shop for unique items submitted from pavilions. It is important to note that we as people have more in common across various ethnicities than differences. 



NEXT: Learn more about India!