We have lived in Canada for almost 20 years now and one of the things that I like about living here is that we get to celebrate 2 Christmases, 2 New Years and 2 Easters. All of my favourite holidays times 2!
Why? Because we are Ukrainian Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Church honors the Julian calendar which was in use two thousand years ago. For this reason we have continued to celebrate Christmas on the old date.
Our Christmas Eve is tomorrow. My daughter and I have been preparing Ukrainian traditional dishes since yesterday! I am very grateful for modern technology in the kitchen as many dishes are quite time consuming.
When Ukraine accepted Christianity in 988 A.D many pagan traditions were in existence. Many of these traditions
were adapted into the new religion. Some of those traditions have survived a thousand years and formed a part of our Christmas celebrations.
This is how we celebrate Christmas. It’s strictly a family affair and we do not exchange gifts on Christmas (it’s done on NYE!).
- The floor should be covered with straw and hay to celebrate the birth of Christ in the stable. We’ve never done it here (where would I find straw and hay in Toronto) but my grandmother in Ukraine always used to do it.
- Svjata Vecherya (or Holy Supper) is the heart of the of the celebration. It starts with the first start appears in the sky. There is no turkey or ham, and there is no Christmas cookies. The meal consists of 12 dishes (representing 12 Apostles) containing no meat, dairy, and eggs.
- The meal must start with some Kutya (wheat berries with poppy seeds, walnuts and honey), a holy ritual dish for many Slavic people. This dish is very ancient, many believe it represents abundance for the family.
- Kolach (another ritual food) is placed on the table, with a lighted candle (to remind of the Star of Bethlehem) in its centre.
- We set the extra placing “to invite” the souls of the departed family members and to let them know that they are remembered. Any passing stranger is welcome as it is believed that it could be a soul of a departed family member who came to visit.
- In Ukraine, after the supper the carollers visit home after home and wish the family happiness and blessings by singing Koliady (Carols) and eveybody is getting ready for Midnight Mass. In Canada, Koliady are carried out only in churches.
There are lots of customs and superstitions that my grandmother used to tell me about but unfortunately I have forgotten them.
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it!