Ukraine, Ukr. Ukraina, republic U.S. (1995 est. pop. 51,867,000), 232,046 sq mi (601,000 sq km), E Europe. It borders on Poland in the northwest; on Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova in the southwest; on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov in the south; on Russia in the east and northeast; and on Belarus in the north. Kiev is the capital and largest city.
Located in southeastern Europe, the country consists largely of fertile black soil steppes. Mountainous areas include the Carpathians in the southwest and the Crimean chain in the south. There are forest lakes in the north. Ukraine is bordered by Belarus on the north, by Russia on the north, northeast, and east, by the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea on the south, by Moldova and Romania on the southwest, and by Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland on the west.
On Christmas Eve, the Ukrainians observe a number of beautiful customs. The floor of the dining room is covered with straw symbolizing the stable where Christ was born. Between the white tablecloth and the dining room table, hay is spread symbolizing the manger where Christ was born. A white candle is place in the center of the table to represent the star over Bethlehem. When the first stars appear, a meatless supper with up to 12 courses is served.
Originally in Ukraine, a sheaf of rye or wheat would have been placed in a corner of the dining room on Christmas Eve. Paper ornaments and ribbons would have been used to decorate the sheaf. In America, the Christmas tree replaced the sheaf of rye or wheat.
During the Christmas Season people greet each other with the traditional joyous salutation “Khrystos razhdayetsia” (Christ is born.) The proper response is “Slavyte Yeho” (Praise Him!).