Thursday, May 21, 2020

It's Vyshyvanka Day!

(Life in Ukraine) - The Day of Vyshyvanka is a new Ukrainian nationwide celebration intended to preserve ancestral traditions of creating and wearing embroidered ethnic clothing.

This holiday is celebrated on the third Thursday of May.

The Day of Vyshyvanka is original and self-sufficient, it doesn’t have any state or religious bases. One sparking idea gave start to national holiday in 2007.

Since then Ukrainians have specific day to put on embroidered clothes when going to kindergarten, school, university or work place.

Short history of Day of Vyshyvanka

Nationwide action ‘Day of Ukrainian vyshyvanka’ was launched by a student of history, political science and international relationships faculty in Chernivtsi National University Lesya Voroniuk in 2007.

She noted that students often wear embroidered clothes in University and suggested choosing single day to wear vyshyvanky altogether.

The first Day of Vysyhyvanka took place in 2007 when several dozens of students come to University in Ukrainian ethnic embroidered shirts.

In course of the following years festival reached nationwide level. Ukrainian diaspora and supporters of Ukraine from all over the world joined as well.

Why celebrate Vyshyvanka Day?

The main goal of such event is preservation of Ukrainian values and their popularization among youth and country’s population in general.

The holiday doesn’t include any mandatory measures except for wearing vyshyvanka. Still there can be concerts, parades, competitions, events and fairs on the initiative of students, professors, public and cultural figures.

The holiday itself stimulates every conscious citizen of Ukraine to a very simple act – just wear vyshyvanka before going to work or study.

However, this act has a deep psychological context as it comes to expression of national and civic position, cultural education and spiritual consciousness.

The experience proves that during Vyshyvanka Day people are always in high spirits with smile on their faces. Symbols of strength, prosperity, beauty and ancient amulets are encoded in this ethnic clothes.


  1. How lovely! Most European cultures were deracinated by the time Hitler was defeated. He especially destroyed German culture which he pretended to vaunt but only cynically as a means to access power to delude and pervert wholesome local culture.
    It’s an uphill battle to expand on or even just to preserve local culture in the era of global capital and media. Traditionalists and post-romantic esoterists like Rudolph Steiner believed that traditional clothing provides a symbolic link between the human body and the cosmos, that design, shape and color in traditional ethnic couture concretely and tangibly focus the positive forces of nature upon the person this garbed and project the body’s power outward to the community and cosmos.
    But ritualization of clothing tends toward something like ‘judaizing’ if it’s obsessive. In a traditional context few would even be conscious of the esoteric notions above. Modernism has created the need to express them theoretically while making the simple wearing of ethnic traditional clothes problematic.

    1. Thanks for that historical and theoretical explication Fr. John. I have a practical example of: "Modernism {i.e. multi-culturalism}...making the simple wearing of ethnic traditional clothes problematic.".

      Twelve years ago we moved to this smallish desert S.W. city, and found the only local Orthodox parish to be a Ukrainian (of usa) one, so we became part of it (we are mid 90's converts who had spent the most time in various OCA and Antiochian parishes). I think it was the first time our bishop visited us (born in Ukraine, but a bishop here in the US for some time now) we were at a local restaurant and I noticed he had an unusual patterned shirt on and I asked him about it. I vaguely remember him explaining its cultural significance, and he may have mentioned this 'Vyshyvanka Day' even.

      This was not what I expected however, as the shirt reminded me of that vague American Indian and desert S.W. fusion motif that you see everywhere here, from clothing, art, and even on business signage. In other words it simply 'blended in' to the already existing local culture, such as it is. I had expected him to simply explaine that he had stopped at one of the local tourist shops and picked up a 'souvenir'!

      Yet more evidence I suppose that global 'multi-culturalim' is in fact that negation of culture...

    2. If by negation you mean the mutual cancellation of symbolic meaning, perhaps. Under modernism the referential system of signs becomes globalized and abstract, losing concrete meaning. I’m not a semiologist but I did graduate Art School and have been a student of folklore since childhood.
      Local culture differs significantly from commercial ‘culture’ because the local is concrete and qualitative while the globalizing culture of commerce is merely transactional, dependent on quantity for motivation (profitable) and substantive of individualism qua consumerism, to stimulate consumption.
      That SW border design motif, the kokopili lawn ornament, etc. ad nauseum convey nothing more than horror vacui and a shift from lawn jockeys to something more innocuous and less overtly racist.

      A challenge for still heavily ethnic Orthodox communities is to grasp the Tradition which contextualizes their traditions meaningfully. Most fail, sadly, and depopulate after the emigre generation or their first generation of offspring age out. For them the gospel message is too heavily encoded in specific cultural forms and their adaptation to American idiom is not pursued with enthusiasm.

    3. "A challenge for still heavily ethnic Orthodox communities is to grasp the Tradition which contextualizes their traditions meaningfully. Most fail, sadly, and depopulate..."

      To riff off what you said here, I have an opinion about all this. I think just about everybody has this backwards - the Tradition does not contextualize embodied and lived (little t) traditions/culture. This is in fact a modern and thus nominalistic assertion (i.e. meaning is "inserted" into otherwise nominal signs/traditions/sings). The truth is the reverse: the Tradition is contextualized "meaningfully" in the little t traditions/culture. Tradition is downstream from culture. This is not to deny the transcendent, universal, eternal, unchanging truth -but it is to assert that these don't exist outside of traditions and culture - they are embodied or they are mere abstractions (which is how modernism contextualizes all truth and being).

      Orthodoxy, which is to say this Imperial Church of the East (see what I did there?) came into modern/secular culture in earnest about 100 years ago, and is perplexed by its *impotence* - it can't even manage to be a functioning cult and pass the faith on to the next generation. Why? It's praxis assumes (mostly unconsciously) an Orthodox culture - all the little t's and culture that makes up the Orthodox village in all it's forms (e.g. Slavic isolation, Greek under Ottoman oppression, etc.). Replace those little t's/culture with modernism/secularism it turns out that the normative parish praxis is simply overwhelmed and the children become the good modernists/secularists that they are in fact being encultured outside of the parish.

      You get to the same point via another route with:

      "...For them the gospel message is too heavily encoded in specific cultural forms and their adaptation to American idiom is not pursued with enthusiasm..."

      Yet America, and all of western classically liberal civilization, IS modern and secular and has been for many centuries now. Can culture simply be "created" as some propose? Even in the pre-Constantine Church, was Orthodox Christian really just another small "counter-culture" - was it not always conquering? We have no example of an American idiom, a Christianity that is not an essential part of modernism/secularism - RCism invented secularism in the middle ages and Protestantism completed the project. How can this Imperial Church of the East be anything other than a tiny subculture in this culture?

      All this to say I don't think Orthodoxy as it is in N.A. and the west of western civ. has even begun to properly frame all this, let alone face up to it all with enthusiasm...