A traditional British Christmas dinner with all the trimmings will be a new experience for most Ukrainians and they are likely to be keen to experience this. But you may have to explain what some dishes are – e.g. Christmas pudding, and also any other family traditions you may have.
Ukrainian Christmas food is completely different. To begin with, the main Christmas meal is on Christmas Eve (24 December or 6 January, depending on whether or not your guest observes the old calendar).
It consists of 12 dishes – one for each apostle – and is dairy and meat-free, as Christmas Eve comes at the end of the pre-Christmas fasting period. It will be a very supportive gesture (as well as a whole new experience for you) to allow your guest to prepare at least some traditional Ukrainian dishes on 6 January.
Typical traditional dishes include:Kolach
– a braided bread, which is the centrepiece of the table and usually has a candle in the middleKutia
– eaten at the start of the meal. A mixture of grain, honey, dried fruits and nuts symbolising plenty.Borshch
– traditional beetroot soupA fish dish (or two)
– this could include fried/baked carp, marinated herringVarennyky
– boiled dumplings filled with potato and onion or sauerkrautHolubtsi
– cabbage rolls filled with rice or buckwheatMushroom sauce
– traditionally made with wild mushroomsUzvar
– a compote made from dried fruitsSweet dishes
– which could include home-made yeasted doughnuts, honey cake, poppyseed roll.
Everyone will have their traditional family recipe and each dish has its own symbolism, but if you want to find out more, this website
is very informative.
Do not be surprised to hear about different traditions (or recipes) from your guests when comparing notes with other sponsors. Ukrainian Christmas traditions vary not only from region to region, but also from neighbouring town/village to town/village.
The Lenten period ends on Christmas Eve so Christmas Day is no longer meat and dairy-free. Your guests will have generally been used to a table that groans with food for most of the day and will again have their own traditional recipes that you may wish to try.