Ukrainian Christmas Traditions – Tinsel and the Christmas Spider

Christmas Excitement

This is the first year my daughter Floss (six) has shown SERIOUS excitement about Christmas time. Often her and I have been having difficulties with our health around Christmas time and our health and time together has been the most important thing for us as a family.

When asked about Christmas and whether she’s excited about presents, it’s lovely that in all the excitement she is currently exuding, that presents are nice but it’s all about being together as a family at Christmas time. She melts my heart!

Big Questions

Floss has also got to that age where – BIG questions keep appearing. The kind of questions that need a lot of time to answer. They often need more thought and preparation into how you will properly answer.

This week Floss asked if everyone around the world celebrates Christmas at exactly the same time. What an awesome question!

We talked about the answer having various aspects to it:

  • That the world has been divided into time zones and this means that in different parts of the world it is different times of day. As a family we have friends in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. It was helpful to be able to talk in terms of these friends and look up what time of day (or night) it was for them right now.
  • That the world is made up of different religions and that Christmas is a Christian religion celebrated primarily by Christians. Although, we did talk about friends who have different faiths who also join in with Christmas celebrations like we are invited to join in with celebrations such as Diwali.
  • Then there is the difference in calendars. In Ukraine Orthodox and Greek Churches celebrate Christmas on different dates whether they follow the Julian or Gregorian calendar. Traditionally Ukraine celebrates Christmas day on 7th January however, the 25th December has been a public holiday in Ukraine since 2017.

Ukrainian Christmas Traditions

Well it certainly made an lengthy topic of discussion over dinner that night. It also made me realise that it’s time to learn more about world traditions and religions. It’s so important to go with topics that children have genuine curiosity and interest in.

As I help Ukrainian families learn English I thought it would be a good starting point to explore a little further with Floss. She’s already aware that I’m learning Ukrainian and often likes to help me prepare resources for teaching.

If you’re looking to learn more about different traditions I think it’s so important to try and get information first hand if it is possible. Luckily for us we get to meet with Ukrainian families regularly who can give us that insight into their traditions for Christmas.

Then I like to do my research. The internet is a great sources of quick information. Although I would caution checking information is from reputable sources and cross checking facts. Being able to check information with ‘real’ people is so important.

Ukrainian Christmas Tradition Sources

Here are a few internet sources that I found very use:

  • https://svccoakville.com/category/ukraine-2/
  • https://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/ukraine
  • https://ukrainianpeople.us/ukrainian-christmas-traditions/
  • https://vidviday.ua/blog/en/ukraine-traditions-holidays/#:~:text=Ukrainian%20Christmas%20traditions&text=The%20Christmas%20celebration%20begins%20on,dried%20fruits%2C%20and%20other%20toppings.

Using the sources of information you have, pick out aspects that you think the children you work with or your family may enjoy. I chose to share the following story with Floss that is a traditional story told in Ukraine at Christmas.

Tinsel and the Legend of the Christmas Spider

A traditional Ukrainian Christmas story is that of the Christmas spider. It’s a delightful little story and one that Floss has really enjoyed. You can find the story here. In essence a bare tree is magically transformed/ decorated with the help of a spider for Christmas.

Floss and I picked out similarities and differences. Such as both countries use trees to celebrate Christmas and the idea of decorating a tree. We also talked about the magic of the Christmas spider and the magic of Christmas time.

We’d not heard of a Christmas story with a spider before but Floss talked about the spider Anansi and the traditional folk tales we know about that spider from Ghana in West Africa.

These discussions help children to understand the world in which we live; how we are all connected yet also different.

The Christmas spider would be a perfect story to share with a class of children especially if there are Ukrainian children in the class. You could then make decoration like below following on from the story.

Christmas Spider Decorations

A cute little activity would be to make your own spiders and/ or webs using pipe cleaners.

For older children or adults you could use jewellery wire and jewellery tools.

For creative ideas for spiders and more Christmas crafts head to this blog post Christmas Crafts, Candles, Pebble Painting and Tin Art Ideas.

English-Ukrainian Christmas Vocabulary

Here are some English-Ukrainian vocabulary cards you may find helpful. There are two sheets and they can be downloaded below.

If you notice any errors or have any suggestion for downloadable resources please contact me via email lisa@busybusylearning.com. Thank you.

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