Today, October 14, Ukrainians celebrate the Feast of the Protection of Our Most Holy Lady (Покрова) and the Defender of Ukraine Day (День Захисників Вітчизни).
According to Eastern Orthodox tradition, the apparition of Mary the Theotokos occurred during one of the sieges of Constantinople at the Blachernae church where She spread Her veil over all the people in the church as a protection. As the result the enemies withdrew and the city was rescued.
The cult of the Mother of God as the Intercessor and Patron got firmly established among Ukrainians: Ukrainian princes, kings, Cossacks, and hetmans chose the Mother of God as their Patron and Guardian.
Prince Yaroslav the Wise in 1036 defeated the Pechenegs and built in Kyiv the Church of Assumption at the Golden Gates out of gratitude. In 1037, in the Church of Assumption, he entrusted the whole nation to the guardianship of the Mother of God.
Zaporizhzhya Cossacks built in their fortress a church in honor of the Protection of the Holy Mother of God which contained an icon of her veil. There was an inscription on the icon “I will cover my people” and another inscription on a ribbon under the icon “We pray: cover us with Your Holy Veil and deliver us from evil.”
The Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God is also a day when the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was created in 1942. To honor the UPA as a World War II anti-Soviet and anti-Nazi nationalistic partisan movement, and to praise Ukrainian warfighters’ heroism and bravery in continuing conflict against combined Russian-separatists forces occupying eastern Donbas, October 14 has been proclaimed as the Defender of Ukraine Day.
On this day, people believe that Pokrova covers the earth with leaves or snow. At this time, Ukrainian farmers would usually finish their work in the fields and would get ready to celebrate weddings. From now on, fall wedding weeks are taking place. Girls who want to get married this year, go to church on the Pokrova feast and pray with an intention, “Saint Pokrova, please cover my head.” According to the Ukrainian tradition, a girl who is married needs to cover her head. Therefore, the prayer tells about the head covering.