This is the last in the Christmas Around The World guest post series, in which bloggers from across the globe have been telling us all about Christmas in their home country. Today we have Elena from Elena's Travelgram, sharing an insight into the holiday season in Ukraine.

Why don’t you start by introducing yourself?

I’m Elena, a twenty-something perpetual traveler, sharing inspiring stories of life and travel at Elena’s Travelgram. Currently, I’m an expat in the charming town of Besançon in the East of France, but originally I come from Kyiv, Ukraine. Christmas is a pretty big deal in Ukraine and though I’m not into religion much, I still love celebrating it a lot!

What are the main Christmas traditions in Ukraine?

As Orthodox Christianity is the main religion in Ukraine, Christmas is celebrated on January the 7th, according to the Julian calendar. We usually do not exchange gifts on Christmas; Did Moroz (Ukrainian Santa Claus) comes to kids on New Year Eve's. Christmas in Ukraine is more of a family and religious holiday, when all the relatives gather at one place to share a meal together and reminisce about all the best times from the previous year.

When I was a kid, I loved Christmas more because I usually went to kolyadovat around the neighbours' houses – telling or singing special Christmas verses, while covering the neighbours' floor with rice or buckwheat in exchange for sweets or a few coins.

Back in the old days, this tradition was more popular. Huge gangs of kids and young folk dressed in fancy traditional costumes made a shining star symbolising the Star of Bethlehem. It was also decorated with bright ribbons and sometimes a candle was placed inside. Older folks went even more creative; called ryazhenі, they dressed up in costumes and staged a small Christmas play, based on one of the biblical stories, in front of someone’s house.

Today, you can still see these traditions kept in small towns and villages around Western Ukraine, especially in the Carpathian Mountains.

Another fancy Ukrainian tradition is to set diduh before Christmas. It can be translated as 'Grandfather’s Spirit', symbolising the respect of your legacy and ancestors. It’s a reap of wheat, rye or buckwheat, set at home or outside, decorated with colourful ribbons, dried flowers and other fancy things. It is first carried all around the house and then set at the best spot, usually under the icons.

Today, you can still see this tradition in Lviv, where each year a huge diduh is made and carried from the town council, all along the central street, to the main city square, where it is honourably placed till late February. Lviv also runs an annual competition of verteps - traditional theatre groups, staging Christmas scenes. Expect a lot of performances going on the streets if you happen to visit the city in January!

What food is on the dinner table on Christmas day?

January the 7th is called the Holy Evening (Sv’at Vechir) and is the time when the family sits down to have a festive meal of twelve special dishes cooked for the occasion, as below.

- Uzvar – A warm compote made of dried fruits

- Kutia – A sweet pudding made of crushed barley or wheat porridge, honey, nuts, raisins and loads of poppy seeds

- Borsh – A hot beet soup cooked without meat for this occasion, with mushrooms and prunes added instead, served with freshly-baked pampushki

- Holubtsi – Cabbage rolls with a rice and carrot filling.

- Fried fish or fish in aspic

- Millet porridge with mushrooms

- Stewed cabbage with mushrooms

- Beet and herring salad

- Salad made of pickles, sauerkraut and onions.

- Pancakes made of pea flour

- Special spicy seasoning with crushed garlic, black pepper, dill, tomato and oil

- Potatoes seasoned with dill

My grandmother used to cook all twelve dishes, yet now we prefer to stick to just one or two dishes as our family isn’t that big and we won’t be able to eat them all anyway!

Thanks Elena! Are there any other Ukrainian readers out there? What does your Christmas look like?