Christmas Family Traditions – Ukrainian

Dec 20, 2022 | News

Grandpa Einhorn Teaching Grandson Mark How to Make Pierogies GHWCC | Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce






Theresas Husband Don Ready to Make Borscht GHWCC | Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce Dons Borscht for Christmas GHWCC | Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce







Christmas Family Traditions – Ukrainian

Intro –

GHWCC Board member Theresa Einhorn’s heritage is Ukrainian, and she shares this story of her family’s Ukrainian Christmas traditions.


My dad was born in the village of Lanivtsi in the Ternopil Oblast (province) of Ukraine. He immigrated to the prairies of western Canada, as my mother’s grandparents had done a generation earlier, immigrating from the village of Ozeryany in the Rivne Oblast of Ukraine. My parents grew up in Ukrainian communities in Saskatchewan, Canada. They cherished their Christmas customs and continued them throughout my childhood, and my husband and I have carried forward many of those traditions while my son was growing up and through to today. For us, these are expressed through the traditional Ukrainian foods served at Christmas time.

Christmas time is a beloved time for Ukrainians and traditionally Christmas Eve is the most important part of Christmas and centers around the family. Dishes are associated with legends and customs, a mix of eastern rite catholic and orthodox religions and pre-Christian Ukrainian influences.

Following the Ukrainian custom, in my family Christmas Eve is a meatless meal for which the first and indispensable dish is “kutia,” consisting of cooked wheat berries with honey, nuts, chopped apples (or other fruit), and poppyseed. Wheat has a special significance in Ukraine, one of the world’s major grain producers. This is followed by pickled herring, borscht, pierogis (filled with potatoes and cheese, sauerkraut, or fruit), and holubtsi (cabbage rolls stuffed with rice, buckwheat and onions, baked in a tomato-based sauce). A truly traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner will have 12 varieties of dishes (based on the 12 disciples), but I don’t believe that my family ever made it all the way to 12.   All the courses are a real treat, and for me, they are a happy reminder of my parents’ stories about Ukrainian Christmas customs which their parents and grandparents brought from Ukraine.

In the Ukrainian tradition Christmas trees are richly adorned. One of my fondest memories of Christmas is my mom and dad insisting that we fill each and every open spot on our Christmas tree with ornaments, then hang tinsel icicles absolutely everywhere on the tree, and then put our angel on top.

Today my husband Don and my son Mark are both terrific chefs, and make the best kutia, borscht and pierogis!  My job is to make the holubtsi.  All so delicious!

It is said that at Christmas, the true nature of the Ukrainian people is evident: their willingness to work hard and their generosity, which are basic to the Ukrainian character, and are lovingly handed down from generation to generation around the Christmas table. In their age-old traditions of Christmas, Ukrainians pay tribute to the sources of their strength: a deeply held faith, love of family, and a sense of oneness with nature. It is indeed an appropriate time this year to think of the Ukrainians with compassion and support as they face an incredibly heart-breaking struggle in their country.