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Habits & customs

1. Potato planting and digging. This ‘90s  tradition formed due to the economic situation.  In times of hardship, the potato harvesting  tradition helped many families to survive.    

2. Saving money in USD. This custom echoes  the post-traumatic syndrome of the ‘90s. Back  then, people lost all their savings in the national  currency and began saving and exchanging  money into dollars.    

3. Feast. Families gather with parents and  friends at holidays, birthdays, and important  events at a generously served table. Alcohol,  often home- made, is a must-have.    

4. Home preserves. During the summertime  in the ‘90s, mothers made homemade jams,  pickled cabbage, cucumbers and tomatoes  because these fresh vegetables weren’t  available in winter. Now Ukrainians make their  delicious preserves and pickles out of love for  the craft.    

5. Slippers. The custom to take off shoes and  wear slippers at home is so inborn that we only  include it here because this book is bilingual.    

6. Just in case: do not throw it away, because  we might need it later. Many of us store boxes of  boxes or bags of bags just in case we need them  in the future.    

7. Lack of delicacy and general criticising.  Ukrainians love pointing out all the shortcomings  and mistakes of others, especially from the safety  of Facebook.    

8. Expensive cars. They are seen everywhere in  Ukraine: Porsche, Range Rover, newest Mer-  cedes models. Neither crisis nor war can stop this  obsession because Ukrainians love boasting and  showing off.    

9. Inability to plan. ‘Let’s keep in touch’ in Ukrainian  might mean either you call me, or I call you, or  none of us will do so in the foreseeable future. We  set up meetings spontaneously and as effortlessly  cancel them at the last minute.    

10. Care for elderly family members. The state  doesn’t support older adults enough; private  elderly care is expensive. So children must often  look after their ageing parents. However hard it  is, caring for the elderly improves the connection  between generations.    

11. Greetings to the mother and the newborn.  You shouldn’t meet the baby empty-handed for  the first time. Present them with some money,  clothes or toys.    

12. Kum and Kuma (Godparents). In Ukraine, we  often choose a few godfathers and a few  godmothers when baptising our kids. We do it not  to offend anyone, so sometimes Ukrainian kids  have half of the village as godparents. Parents  maintain a close relationship with their kum and  kuma (godfather and godmother of their child)  and treat them almost like family members.    

13. Memorial Days feasts (Graves, Radunitsa).  Food is an effective way of communication, and  dining at the cemetery on special days shows that  the dead person still matters.    

14. Dyeing Easter eggs. Easter and Christmas are  the primary religious celebrations in Ukraine. We  decorate the Christmas tree and serve a festive table  for Christmas. At Easter, instead of buying chocolate  eggs as people do abroad, we boil chicken eggs  with onion skins to give them orange colour and  unusual patterns. We also bake sweet Easter cakes  with raisins and cover them with icing and sprinkles.  It’s now a tradition to show off your Easter cakes  (Paska breads) and Easter eggs on social networks.    

15. Water Monday or Clean Monday is the first  Monday after Easter. Guys sprinkle or pour water  on girls. In turn, girls give the boys ornamental  Easter eggs. Usually, guys bless the girls they like  the most first with water.    

16. Ivan Kupala. A traditional Old Slavic  celebration of “magical purification” by fire and  water. A very romantic and youthful holiday.  Couples in love, holding hands, jump over the  fire. If their hands remain tied, they’ll spend their  lives together. Unmarried girls send their flower  wreaths across the water. They might point the  direction where to look for love.    

17. The Epiphany bathing. We believe that water  has a magical power twice a year, on Ivan Kupala  in summer and Epiphany day in winter. In January,  Ukrainians bathe in open ice holes to gain purity  and health.    

18. Embroidery Shirt Day. On the third Thursday  in May, Ukrainians wear their national clothes eve-  rywhere: at leisure or work.    

19. Sincerity and hospitality. Many Ukrainians  would drop everything to unburden their hearts  or feed their guests.    

20. Pride and patriotism. Flags and the national  yellow and blue colours are everywhere: on taxis  and fences, on construction sites and balconies,  at workplaces and cafes, and even on jewellery.  This tradition dates back to 2014, during and after  the Revolution of Dignity. Ukrainians put their  inferiority complex aside and protest if foreigners  call them ‘Russians’.  

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