Ukrainians are primarily Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian calendar. As such, they celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on Jan. 6 and 7, two weeks behind the Gregorian calendar. Ukrainian Christmas Eve is the last meatless meal of Advent as it is in Russia, Poland and other Slavic countries. In Ukraine, this Holy Supper is known as Sviaty Vechir.
While the women of the household are busy preparing the multicourse meal (sometimes as many as 12 to 13 courses, representing the apostles and Christ) that varies from family to family and region to region, the children are assigned the task of decorating the Christmas tree and searching the night sky for the first star. When the star is sighted, it is a signal that the meal can begin. Throughout the day only light snacking is allowed, so the family eagerly awaits the meal. The table is set with the best linens and china, and a sheaf of wheat tied with a ribbon (Didukh), along with a bread known as kolach. As with other Slavs, an extra place is set for departed family members and / or the Christ Child. Before one morsel is eaten, prayers are recited and either the kolach or prosfora (blessed bread) is broken and dipped in honey (and sometimes grated garlic) and shared with each member of the family, from eldest to youngest, with wishes for good health and prosperity in the coming year. This is similar to the Polish custom of breaking the wafer or oplatki.
After dinner, carols are sung and poems are recited by the children. Some presents are exchanged but most are left to be opened on Christmas Day. Everyone attends a midnight church service with the smallest children taking a gift to present at the manger for the needy children of the congregation. In the old days, gifts were not given on Christmas except for candy and other sweets. St. Nicholas Day was the primary gift-giving occasion. Read more about Ukrainian Christmas here.