« 2022. # 1 (163)

The Ethnology Notebooks. 2022. № 1 (163), 176—182

UDK [398.54:398.332.416](477.87)




  • ORCID:
  • Doctor of Historical Sciences,
  • Professor, Senior Research Fellow,
  • M.T. Rylsky Institute of Art Studies, Folklore and Ethnology
  • of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine,
  • «Ukrainian Ethnological Center» Department,
  • M. Hrushevskoho Street, 4, 01001, Kyiv, Ukraine,
  • Contacts: e-mail:

Abstract. When exploring all horizons and segments of the cultural history of the Ukrainian people, it is important to pay attention to the areas of preservation of archaic traditions. One of such areas is Transcarpathia, which lies in the strip of ethnocultural border between Ukrainians and Poles, Slovaks, Hungarians, Eastern Romans. This study is focused on relict folk games of Ukrainians in Transcarpathia known as the Christmas nativity scene or «Bethlehem» when using the Hungarian style. A figurative image of the Gospel legend of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem lies at the heart of the ritual. The Christmas games including the nativity scene had historical predecessors represented by the ancient Christmas carols of a magical nature that contained wishes of happiness and prosperity.

This study has formulated the principal task of introducing previously unpublished materials about the Christmas rites of Ukrainians in Transcarpathia into scientific circulation; the materials mentioned were collected by correspondents of the Subcarpathian Rus society in the 20—30s of the twentieth century. To examine into such complex objects of scientific knowledge as Christmas rituals and folklore, it is necessary to integrate a holistic system of methods and special research approaches: genetic, typological, historical, comparative, and others. Having analyzed the variants of the «Bethlehem» game from different settlements of Transcarpathia, we concluded that they testified to a rather stable scenario of ritual tradition. According to local circumstances, the cast of the Christmas play varied. The religious shell of the monologues and dialogs of the «Bethlehem» participants makes it possible to see the life reality, the characteristic details of the shepherds’ life and husbandry of Ukrainian mountaineers.

From the Middle Ages, many peoples of the Roman Catholic faith have known dramatic Christmas games based on the Gospel legend of the birth of Jesus Christ with the participation of various domestic characters. During the Enlightenment, those games were almost completely forgotten in Western Europe, while on the periphery of the Catholic world, in particular in Transcarpathia, they survived to the twentieth century.

Keywords: Transcarpathia, Christmas, puppet and «living» nativity scene, Bethlehem, Angels, Shepherds, national theater.

Received 20.01.2022


  • Tolstoy, N.I. (1977). On the ratio of the central and marginal areas in modern Slavia. Areal research in linguistics and ethnography (P. 37—56). Leningrad: Nauka [in Russian].
  • Toporov, V.N. (1992). Sheep. Myths of the peoples of the world. Encyclopedia (Vol. II).Moscow: Soviet encyclopedia [in Russian].
  • Tyvodar, M. (1994). Traditional cattle breeding in the Ukrainian Carpathians of the second half of the 19th — first half of the 20th century: historical and ethnological research. Uzhhorod: Karpaty [in Ukrainian].
  • Khlanta, I.V., & Ofitsynskyi, R.A. (1995). Transcarpathian nativity scene. Uzhhorod: Zakarpattia [in Ukrainian].
  • Chicherov, V.I. (1957). The winter period of the Russian agricultural calendar of the 16th—19th centuries: essays on the history of folk beliefs. Moscow: Publishing House of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR [in Russian].
  • (1983). Boykivshchyna: historical and ethnographic research. Kyiv: Naukova dumka [in Ukrainian].
  • Volytska, I.V. (1992). Theatrical elements in the traditional rituals of the Ukrainians of the Carpathians of the late 19th — early 20th century. Kyiv: Naukova dumka [in Ukrainian].


Our authors
Traditional folk clothes of velikobychkovsky hutsuly of XIX — the first half of XX century
In the study based upon numerous field materials, literature sources as well as ethnographic, historio-cultural and regional museum collections has been performed complex analysis in traditional folk clothes by Hutzul population of Velyky Bychkiv village in Transcarpathian region. Detailed descriptions of femi­nine and masculine clothing complexes of the mentioned area have been presented. In characterizing of those main attention has been paid to the detail of cut in separate components of dress; cut of feminine shirt has been added as an illustration.
Read »

On field exploration of russian and belarusian ethnologists and etnolinguists in Ukrainian Polisia 1945—1980s
In the study based on a wide range of literary materials have been comprehensively characterised field research in Polisia of Ukraine, performed by Russian and Belarusian ethnologists during 1945—1980s as well as Moscow ethnolinguists and other researchers from ethnologic centres of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus in the course of realization of Ethnolinguistic Atlas of Polisia program. Particular attention has been paid to geography, methods, themes and research results of scientific projects.
Read »

Daily bread baking of ukrainians in the south-western ethnographical region at the late XIX to early XXI cc.
The paper has dealt with analytic study in prescriptions, signs, customs, methods, ways of selection, procurement and some peculiarities in usage of subsidiary means — water, firewood and leaves in bread baking. The final aim of the mentioned actions had been (and still is) selection of the means and ingredients fit, by their characteristics, for the backing of bread. The paper has demonstrated dependence of bread backing subsi­diary means criteria from the folk nutritional standards and world outlook stereotypes as well as from regional social and economic, natural and geographical factors and peculiarities of material culture.
Read »

On bessarabian and moldavian ukrainians in the studies of historical ethnography
The article has thrown some light upon a sum of scientific findings got during XIX to XXI cc. in historio-ethnographic studies of Bessarabia and Moldavian Ukrainians. In the pre­sent paper has been given author’s answer to the problem of lacking progress as for the numerous themes concerning Ukrainians. State and achievements of the research-works in Ukrainians’ material and spiritual culture by the scientists of Moldavia and Ukraine through the years of independence has been exposed.
Read »