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How to Celebrate Independence Day in Ukraine

Independence Day in Ukraine

On August 24th the bright blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag will decorate the streets of all cities big and small across Ukraine. Also known as ‘День незалежності України’ (Den’ Nezalezhnosty Ukrainy’), this holiday is officially called Ukraine’s Independence Day. A very important national holiday, it commemorates Ukrainian Independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

To this day, Independence Day in Ukraine is celebrated with great pomp. Ukrainians have always had their own culture and language, but for centuries were dominated by Russia, Poland, Turkey and other countries. Because of this, the holiday carries extra significance, allowing Ukrainians to express their love for a country ruled by and for them. The day has come to remember the heroes of Ukraine’s past and honor those who fought for their nation’s freedom.

how to celebrate independence day in Ukraine

Independence Day in Kyiv

Even though Independence Day festivities take place all over the country, in Kyiv the holiday is celebrated like nowhere else. While other places have similar events, the capital is more important when it comes to celebrating this day for both cultural and historical reasons.

A spectacular military parade is one of the main traditions that has been observed annually on August 24th. Exciting live concerts with famous musicians, a colorful fair featuring a giant map of Ukraine made out of hundreds of thousand fresh flowers, traditional night time fireworks, and other patriotic activities will all take place on this day.

*Did you know?

The Ukrainian national flag consists of two horizontal bands. The top blue one symbolizes the sky while the bottom yellow represents wheat fields.

How to Plan for Independence Day in Ukraine

After hundreds of years of conquering and political unrest, Ukrainians take advantage of any excuse to celebrate their freedom. There’s no doubt, Independence Day is a wonderful reason for celebration, but how can you prepare and what should you expect if you’re visiting Ukraine during this holiday?

The first thing to know is that most businesses will be closed. If you’re in a rural town or smaller area, plan ahead by ordering some extra food while out, and stopping at a grocery store the day before for snacks and staples. You don’t want to be stuck trying to find something open or without basics like Tylenol, drinks & juices with sugar if you have diabetes, or medications that need to be taken with food.

Consider Nuances of Ukrainian Culture

If you’re in rural areas in Ukraine or smaller villages, many families will be hospitable and invite you over for meals or drinks. These same families probably have vodka recipes that have been passed down for generations and will expect you to try some. It will be considered offensive to not drink when offered, so be ready to at least give it a try or provide a valid reason (mostly medical) as to why you cannot. It’s important to remember that drinking is part of the culture and when you have a drinking holiday like Ukrainian Independence Day, you’ll be expected to try at least a glass or two.

Don't be surprised by drinking and dancing at a celebration in Ukraine

Food & Meal Etiquette During Ukraine Independence Day Dinners

Now comes the food.

This holiday is all about celebrating. Some of the traditional foods, especially ones made for this holiday are cooked in pig fat. If you refuse because of religion or a medical condition, many people will be understanding. But if you refuse because you think it is gross, or you simply don’t like the way the food looks or smells, you will offend your host.

It is always best to at least try the dish and thank the person who cooked. Ukrainians also take great offense to wasting food, so do your best to clear your plate. If you’re offered seconds, you should accept and don’t worry about rushing if it is dinner, meals can take a while as the Ukrainian people consider dinner family time for being together.

Fun fact, you’ll may notice that many of older Ukrainians will eat with a fork in their left hand and knife in their right, while we do the opposite in the USA. Another difference is that it is considered rude to place your hands under the table while people are eating. A good rule of thumb is to look at how others have their hands positioned and mimic what they are doing. Younger Ukrainians may not be as formal, but it is always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings.

Ukrainian celebrations are vibrant gatherings

How do you Thank your Host After an Independence Day Celebration Party?

An important part of Ukrainian culture is showing appreciation and gratitude for hospitality. Some older or more traditional Ukrainians may give a gift of bread with salt on top as you finish your meal and leave. Although this is a passing trend, it can have meaning for a more traditional family that hosted you during an Independence Day or other holiday meal.

A great way to show you’ve studied their culture, say thank you and to give a fun spin on this tradition is to send a food or fruit gift basket to Ukraine that has sweet breads or cakes and also salty cheeses. On the card you can include a message of thanks with a tie in for a healthy and happy year. The family may get the underlying message, and if they do, they’ll appreciate the extra thought you put into it.

If you are sending a gift to friends or a business partner to say thank you for hosting you during the celebrations, this is a drinking country and a wine and champagne gift basket could be a perfect choice. If you want to add something extra, choose an option with rich or sweet chocolates to “sweeten” the surprise as it arrives.

Cognac and Vodka are staples in the country for drinking culture. By sending a gift with one created in your own country and one that the person or family enjoys, you will not only help them to learn about your own country, but also add something extra to the gift that shows the recipient you appreciated the work they put into sharing their home and holiday with you.  Spirit, food and wine hampers to Ukraine are always great options because they are not only celebratory in nature, but they can include items that the family will enjoy from your culture too.

Some more gift ideas for Ukraine shared by our team member — watch the video!

We’ll Help You Send the Perfect Gift to Ukraine

When you get to experience Independence Day in a country that has been through millenia of political unrest and is finally free, you’ll truly understand what it means to celebrate. By preparing for numerous store closings, knowing how to politely attend a holiday meal and making sure you can follow up with a gift that shows your appreciation, you’ll be ready to celebrate like a local and hopefully get an invitation back.

If you’d like to prepare ahead of time, you can always use our services to send a gift basket to Ukraine. You’ll find categories for fruit, wine, chocolate and combination baskets so there is an option for just about everyone and all occasions like Ukrainian Independence Day.

As you can see, celebrating independence is not limited to specific occasions like Ukrainian Independence Day. We fight for our independence every day, in little things of course, but it doesn’t make it less important. What is important, though, is to acknowledge these achievements and celebrate little victories in life with a big smile and open heart.

Now you know everything about independence. What’s next?

– Send a  gift to Ukraine to someone you love.
– Subscribe to our blog to learn more about other cultures.
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