Why is the Sunflower the National Flower of Ukraine?
Ukrainians have always loved flowers. Flowers fill the yards of village houses, and are woven into wreaths (venki) for girls to wear at celebrations. They’re embroidered on fabrics, and painted on walls, wooden furniture and household items in a folk art called petrykivka, added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
In a strange twist, the fact that Ukraine is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of sunflower seeds and sunflower oil is partly due not to pagan practices, but to those of the Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox Church comes into the story because during Lent, believers were not supposed to use butter or lard for cooking. Since sunflower oil was a fairly recent arrival, there were no specific restrictions on its use. Sunflower culture took off. By the 1800s, there were big fields of them all over Ukraine and western parts of Russia, and people were chewing the seeds and spitting out the shells.
Today this versatile crop covers huge swathes of central Ukraine, bringing joy, beauty, symbolism, and snacks to the people of Ukraine – and the world – by way of the ever-powerful energy of the sun.
Travel to Ukraine with MIR
MIR has 30 years of travel experience in Ukraine and has an affiliate office in Kiev. We have a roster of contacts that can take you to places that you didn’t even know you wanted to go. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”
You can experience the beauty and rich folk traditions of Ukraine on MIR’s small group tour, Belarus, Ukraine & Moldova, or on the private itinerary, Essential Ukraine. You can also create your own Ukrainian exploration with the help of our custom & private specialists.
Chat with one of our destination specialists by email or by phone at 1-800-424-7289 to start planning your travels today.
Top photo: Sunflowers turn their faces toward the sun. Photo credit: Luba Rudenko
PUBLISHED: February 24, 2016