Significance of Ukrainian Bread

Ukrainian Babka.jpg Bread is not only a staple food in Ukraine, it is also a symbol of prosperity, divinity, and hospitality. Since the first agrarians settled the Ukrainian land, grains, porridges and breads have become sacred objects of worship and rituals, closely connected with folklore and traditional customs.

Everyday Ukrainian bread is usually dense and dark, containing a sourdough starter and rye flower – the same type that local peasants have been making since the onset of agriculture many thousand years ago. Modern varieties include white breads and pastries, such as poppy-seed rolls, strudels, sweet buns, coffee cakes, and home-made doughnuts. Ritualistic types of white bread are baked on special occasions, since home-baked bread is considered an indispensable attribute of all significant celebrations in Ukrainian traditional culture. No a single important family event, be in funeral, marriage, or Christmas, can be marked without white bread. “Paska” or “Babka”, sweet, delicious, and intricately decorated cylindrical breads, are only baked once a year, for Easter. They usually feature rich ingredients, such as butter, eggs, sweet spices, raisins, and sometimes cheese, thus signifying well-being, health, strength, and joy. “Kolach”, braided white bread, which initially represented pagan aspects of eternity and later became a symbol of the Holy Trinity, is a typical attribute of both Sunday meals and family holidays. Korovai, Lezhen, and Dyven are types of ritualistic wedding breads, each symbolising different aspects of a married life for the couple. Other holiday varieties include Bulka (egg bun) and Knish (bread with a filling).

The Ukrainians greet guests with round white bread and salt, which are handed on a “rushnyc” – a hand-decorated traditional cloth. Guests are expected to break the bread, dip it in salt, and eat it, thus accepting the offering of friendship and hospitality.

Ukrainian ritual and festive foods, including breads, are still largely home-made, although many of them can now also be purchased from commercial bakeries.

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