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Bread, the Symbolic Staple Food of Ukraine

21. January 2010 by Michelle 0 Comments

ukrainian braided bread

At every meal in Ukraine, you will most likely find some type of bread. This classic baked treat is a common food staple all over the world, but it holds a special significance in Ukrainian culture. Bread symbolizes prosperity, divinity, and hospitality.


Ukraine, the breadbasket of Europe, has very rich soil which produces hearty grains. When the very first Ukrainians began harvesting the land, grains and breads quickly became sacred objects of worship and rituals. The baking and decoration of bread became a form of art for Ukrainian women.


Bread and salt

The ancient tradition of offering a guest bread and salt dates back many centuries. Ukrainian hosts would give their guests a circular bread and a mold of salt on an embroidered ceremonial cloth called a rushnyk. Here the bread represents hospitality and the salt symbolizes friendship.


Holiday breads

Special breads are included in Ukrainian holiday feasts. Paska is a sweet and intricately decorated circular bread that is made for Easter. Crosses, roses, and pine cones made from bread dough decorate the top. At Christmas, there are three large ring-shaped braided loaves, representing the Holy Trinity, called kolach. In the middle of the kolach, a candle is lit before dinner and burns all night.


kolach christmas bread

Wedding bread

The korovai is the traditional Ukrainian wedding bread. Large, circular, and sweet, this bread is decorated with symbolic figures such as cones for fertility and doves for love and faithfulness. It can also be topped with green periwinkle leaves. Ukrainian folklore tells how baking this special wedding bread was an important ritual. The korovai had to be made by seven young Ukrainian ladies chosen from seven happily married couples. They were required to draw water from seven different wells and to use flour from wheat that grew from seven different fields.


Special Ukrainian breads are often homemade, although they can also be purchased in bakeries. Some Ukrainian families have special recipes that have been passed down for many years. Never underestimate the importance of bread in Ukrainian culture.


many varieties of ukrainian bread