On the holy night, January 6, the cycle of Christmas holidays begins, which ends on January 19. The holidays have a lot of interesting traditions of our ancestors, which, though not everywhere, are still preserved, especially in rural areas. We talked about this with the Transcarpathian anthropologist and researcher Yuriy Chori.
Traditionally, on the Christmas Eve they cook 9 or 12 meatless dishes (the last day of Lent).
In the house, there must be a "didukh", and in some areas they just put a fir tree, Yu.Chori says. Didukh is made of "Savior’s beard" – a small patch of unmowed rye or wheat in the field. Only when harvesting was completed, they would mow the "Savior’s beard." Also, they would scatter hay and straw in the house (this is practiced now too).
In some families in Uzhgorod district, there is a tradition to put a glass of wine covered with a slice of bread and an empty plate on the window. In this way, the homeowners invite deceased relatives for dinner. The festive table is not cleaned up until the morning.
On Christmas Eve, they begin caroling as soon as the first star rises. Carol singers followed certain "rules". Yuriy Chori says that first to go were little children with bags, but they would not come into houses because they could not open the door. They would usually sing one carol under windows. Then the students (mostly by two) with a spinning star would come. They would sing two carols. Afterwards, there were older guys with a den, but not disguised. And finally, carol singers disguised as shepherds, angels, who performed a scene. The devil usually collected money.
Girls were not singing carols on Christmas Eve. They had to help around the house, waiting for carolers. In the village of Zahattya in Irshava district, they still preserved a tradition, when groups of guys would come caroling to the house where there are unmarried girls. If two groups come together to one house by accident, they would agree who sings carols first, while the other group would wait patiently for their turn at the door. On Christmas Eve, caroling was allowed until midnight, and then there was the Vigil at the church.
The next day, they would begin caroling at the house, where they had stopped the day before. On the second or third day, girls were also allowed to go caroling (often with boys).