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A performance of a traditional Ukrainian dance by Virsky dance ensemble

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.[citation needed] 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.

Social Manners

Ukrainians generally carry themselves in a very polite, civilized manner.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] In rural areas, men will sometimes kiss a woman's hand, but this is starting to go out of fashion.[1]

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.[citation needed] A young unmarried man or woman should not be seated at a table's corner.[citation needed] Always buy an odd number of flowers as a gift, unless it is a funeral.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]


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 wheat groats, poppy seeds, and honey, and special sweet breads - is prepared.

An average Ukrainian diet consists of fish, cheeses and a variety of sausages. Head cheese is also quite popular in Ukraine as well as Kolbasa (Ukrainian: Ковбаса́, 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.


Best-known foods

  • Salo (salted pork fat with garlic)
  • Borshch (a cabbage and beets based soup, usually with beef or pork meat, might be added)
  • Holubtsi (cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and minced meat)
  • Varenyky (large stuffed dumplings, can be stuffed with potatoes, curds, meat, berries, etc.)
  • Pampushky (small baked breads, often with jelly or poppy seeds)
  • Nalysnyky (a sort of very thin pancakes)
  • Rosil (a broth, usually out of chicken)
  • Kisto (home-made spaghetti)


One 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 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 pryvitannia, 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.


Weddings traditionally take place in churches, the bride in white and the groom in black. Wedding celebrations are known to continue for days, even a week. They are accompanied by lively music and dancing, drinking and eating, and fellowship. Some particular wedding customs include:

  • Before the wedding, the groom goes with his friends to the bride's house and bargains with "money' to get a bride from her family.
  • When leaving the church, the bride carries a basket of candies or sweets to throw to children and the crowd
  • The groom carries her down any stairs
  • At the reception, the bride dances with each of the unmarried women present, and places a special veil on each of them. This veil symbolises that they are still pure, but that the bride hopes they will get married soon. She also her veil and the girl who catches it first will likely be the next to marry.


Ukrainian humor often deals with Ukrainian everyday life, Russians (often referred to as "Moskali,") other ethnic minorities and Ukrainians themselves. A majority of jokes make fun of stereotypical ethnic features.

Below is a typical example of a Ukrainian joke.

 A Moskal comes to a Ukrainian who is eating salo.
 -"Give me some salo, I'm starving!" says the Moskal.
 -"First drink a bucket of water, and then you may have some," replies the Ukrainian.
 The Moskal barely finishes the bucket and sets it down.
 "Now you may have some" the Ukrainian says.
 "Oh God, no, I'm full!"
 "See? You really were thirsty, not hungry."

Another one shows the people's discontent with their political leaders:

 Lukashenko and Putin are flying on an airplane.
 Putin asks Lukashenko, "Which nation do you think would mourn more for their leader more 
 should this plane crash?"
 - "The Ukrainians," Lukashenko quickly replies.
 -"Why is that?"
 -"Kuchma isn't traveling with us."

Some Ukrainian jokes are based on word play. Here is an example:

 A terrorist with an automatic rifle storms into Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) and yells,
 -"Excuse me, allow me to interrupt you."
 -"Go ahead."
 The person that's telling the joke imitates gunshot sounds

The pun here, is that the word "to interrupt" is the same in Ukrainian as the word "to kill off." It is also worth mentioning that the Ukrainian parliament sessions sometimes end up in fistfights and for one group of people to be yelling while someone else is speaking or giving a speech is not at all uncommon.

See also

External links



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