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29 Oct. 2023

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Halloween in Ukrainian or Veles's Night: how our ancestors celebrated the holiday

Mythology
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Halloween in Ukrainian or Veles's Night: how our ancestors celebrated the holiday

According to legend, on the night of October 31-November 1, the souls of all the dead come to earth and wander the streets. Ukraine began celebrating Halloween only at the end of the 20th century. Some people perceive this holiday negatively because it is borrowed. However, Ukrainians had their own Halloween before and it was called Veles's Night. Learn about the traditions of celebrating Halloween in Ukraine

Immerse yourself in the Halloween atmosphere by choosing one of the "mystical tours" in Ukraine
Immerse yourself in the Halloween atmosphere by choosing one of the "mystical tours" in Ukraine
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For many years in a row, Ukraine has been celebrating a foreign holiday called Halloween on the night of October 31-November 1. According to legend, on this night the spirits of all the dead wander the streets of cities and towns. However, this holiday existed back in the days of worshiping local gods and was called Veles's Night, and there were even three periods in Ukrainian tradition when the spirits of the otherworld returned to earth. 


We are going to tell you about the Ukrainian analogues of Halloween and how our ancestors used to celebrate this holiday.


Events, festivals and traditions: how Halloween is celebrated around the world - read here.


Veles's Night: the holiday of ancestors


Veles's Night is an ancient Ukrainian holiday that falls on the night of October 31 to November 1. This holiday has deep roots in pre-Christian pagan traditions and is associated with the god Veles.


Veles is a pre-Christian god who was considered the patron saint of art, music, poetry, beauty, talent, happiness, and love. He was also the patron of creative people, magicians, soothsayers, and clairvoyants. 


Beliefs say that Veles taught people how to coexist with nature, grow grain, graze cattle, and take milk without killing animals. He was the god of abundance, and therefore he was revered as much as other Slavic gods such as Perun.


Rituals of Veles's Night


On Veles' Night, people believe that the souls of the dead come down to earth. This night is considered a time of mysticism and magic, when wishes can come true.  In ancient times, there were several traditions and rituals associated with this holiday:


 Candles were lit so that the souls of the dead could find their way home. 

 People remembered good things about their deceased relatives and gathered for a joint dinner, setting the table for both the living and the souls of the dead.


Dreams were believed to be especially powerful on this night. It was considered a very good omen to see one of your deceased relatives in a dream. In order to ensure prosperity, one had to collect all the money in one's wallet and give it to the poor, as this would bring good luck.


Ancient rituals included jumping over bonfires and walking on hot coals, which symbolized the purification of the body and spirit from negative forces.




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Signs of Ukrainian Halloween


There were many signs and symbols for Veles's Night, for example:


 Seeing a dead relative in a dream was considered a good omen on this night.

 Meeting a stranger at home on this night predicted the death of some inhabitant of the house in the next year.

 A black cat was not always a symbol of misfortune on Veles's Night, but a black dog signaled the arrival of an enemy.

 A white dog on this day symbolized a new friend or family member.


Periods of honoring the dead in Ukrainian traditions


In Ukrainian tradition, there are three moments when our ancestors believed that the souls of the dead would return to earth. 


These festivals of honoring the dead, when it is believed that the spirits of the dead return and the living welcome them with carnivals and festivals, were very noisy. Everyone wore masks and costumes and visited neighbors with sweets. 


The first period - Christmas and New Year


Our ancestors would invite the souls of the dead to Christmas Eve and then leave food on the table to celebrate. 


Such traditions as malanka, caroling, and goat riding are a kind of invitation to the spirits of our ancestors. All this is done in the form of a theater with masks and costumes. 


These traditions are reminiscent of the Halloween festival. Masked Malankara performers represent guests from the other world. 


The second period is Easter


When the gates of heaven open on Easter, the souls of the dead come to earth. Ukrainians believed that the spirits of their ancestors would stay on earth for a week and leave on the Sunday after Easter, and people would see them off.  That is why this day is called "sending off". 


The third period - "Green Holidays"


Ears of grain bloom in the fields and mermaids appear on the ground. 


A week later, the mermaids come out of the water to celebrate. At that time, a special rite of passage for mermaids was organized in Polissia. Thus, Ukrainians had a holiday similar to Halloween. 


Halloween: origin and modern traditions


The name "Halloween" comes from the English "Halloween" and translates as "All Saints' Night".  Today, Halloween is considered a holiday that combines pagan and Christian elements. 


Although the holiday originates from Anglo-Saxon and Celtic traditions, it has spread to many countries around the world.


Modern Halloween traditions include:


 Costumes and pumpkin making: On this day, people often dress up in scary costumes and go to parties and parades. It is also popular to make letter pumpkins, which are carved with ghosts and monsters.


 Sweets and "Varyatky": Children go to neighboring houses and collect sweets, saying the phrase "Varyatyky or sweets!". This is a tradition to "overcome" evil spirits.


 Movies and horror books: Many people watch movies and read horror books on this night, creating an atmosphere of mysticism.


Where can I feel the Halloween atmosphere in Ukraine? 


Ukrainian Halloween is not only a holiday, but also an opportunity to plunge into the world of myths, traditions, and magic. This holiday creates an extraordinary atmosphere in which history and modernity come together. Traveling around Ukraine during this holiday, you will have the opportunity to discover ancient rituals and beliefs. 


Mystical tours in Ukraine are becoming more and more popular, and Ukrainian Halloween can be a great travel destination for those who want to explore and feel the spirit of ancient culture. To choose a tour to discover the incredible world of mysticism and traditions, please follow the link.


We remind you! Halloween is a special holiday during which Europe is transformed into a ghostly and enchanted place. Wrap yourself in a warm coat and get ready for the adventures that await you, as this is the time of year when Europe is transported to a world of magic, witches and ghosts. Find out about the top best tourist destinations for travelers in Europe for Halloween 2023. 


Want to know more? Read the latest news and useful materials about Ukraine and the world in the News section.




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