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Love Is In The Air! Happy Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

Photo Credit: Unknown

Old New Year Celebration – Ukrainian Malanka

14 Jan


Photo Credit: my childhood friend Oktavian K.

Happy Old New Year!

The New Year by the Julian calendar is still informally observed, and the tradition of celebrating the coming of the New Year twice is widely enjoyed: January 1 (New New Year) and January 14 (Old New Year).

Across North America, Americans and Canadians of Ukrainian origin celebrate Malanka or Malanckyn Vechir, the New Year’s Eve celebrations, on January 13th. It falls one week after Christmas Eve, January 6th by the same Julian calendar, and is an occasion which, with the exception of the religious note of Christmas, resembles it in several ways. It commemorates the feast day of St. Melania hence the name Malanka.

Like many Ukrainian traditions, this celebration existed long before the adoption of Christianity in 988 where Malanka was a mythical figure, a girl of many talents and of exceptional beauty  Who actually this Malanka girl was, and what she did to earn a public celebration, nobody knows for sure. Some ethnographers believe it symbolizes the beginning of Spring being released from captivity and on her arrival bringing the flowers and greenery to life again.

In Ukraine this tradition varies from city to city.  On this night carolers went from house to house playing pranks or acting out a small play.  In the evening before the Malanka night, young men put on all kinds of costumes, some of them weird and bizarre — Devils, Warriors, Police, Witches, Old Women and Men, Death, Blacksmith, Jews, Gypsies, Turks, Hutsuls and representatives of other nationalities.  All of these people in their disguise move from house to house performing their little plays and improvisations for those who would care to see their performance. They make very much noise, and in addition to music, they play practical jokes on people — but no one ever gets harmed in any way. Well, the celebrants can attempt to kiss a beautiful girl, or do some mischief, but it’s all in jest.

Photo Credit: my childhood friend Oktavian K.

Vashkivtsi, capital of Malanka! Photo Credit: my childhood friend Oktavian K.

Malanka traditions have been preserved best in western Ukraine.  Malanka is also called there Pereberiya and has acquired features of a true folk carnival.  The climax of Malanka celebrations is best to be watched— or participated in— in the city of Chernivtsi, my home town.  Hundreds if not thousands of people wearing masquerade costumes of Devils, Gypsies, Bears, Goats and other creatures pour out into the streets engaging the passers-by and spectators in their boisterous and sometimes wild fun. The participants and spectators let themselves go— but there is never any violence or “violations of public order” to such an extent that it would require the police interference.


Svjata Vecherya / Holy Supper – Ukrainian Christmas Eve

7 Jan

Varenyky (dumplings)

Whole Roasted Stuffed Fish

Last night we had our twelve-dish meatless Christmas Eve meal.  I’ve invited over some of my friends as my daughter and  I don’t have any family here.  What a great night we had!  One of the Russian girls said that it was a blast from a past, in a fun way 🙂  We all stay until 2 am and if it wouldn’t be a Sunday night (many had to go to work today) we could have easily stayed another hour or so.

This is what we had :

  1. Kutya 
  2. Herring
  3. Pickled mushrooms
  4. Sauerkraut
  5. Roasted Peppers
  6. Salad “Vinegret”.  Sounds like “Vinaigrette”  but it’s not the oil-and-vinegar dressing in this case.
  7. Borsch /  (no, this is not a typo.  There is no “t” in this word in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish! Here is the actual word written in Cyrillic:  Борщ)
  8. Cabbage Rolls
  9. Whole roasted stuffed fish
  10. Potato-Fried Onion Varenyky
  11. Cabbage Varenyky 
  12. Uzvar 

Herring, pickled mushrooms and sauerkraut were store-bought.  Everything else my daughter and I made from scratch, including Kolach.  I will be sharing some of these recipes in my posts.

Ukrainian Christmas

5 Jan


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!





Merry Christmas From Dina!

24 Dec

Will It Be a White Christmas?

17 Dec

Ornaments in blue and silver

Yes, it will be!  Because we got our white Christmas tree!

Dressing up a tree is a family experience we always look forward to.  This year we decided to add a modern twist on our tradition.  Instead of the usual multi-coloured ornaments we added accents in silver and blue with white lights.

winter white Christmas tree

We’ve been enjoying this relatively mild December in Toronto and there is no snow yet.  I believe Christmas is only perfect with snow 🙂  Time is ticking… only one week to go!

wrapped gifts I played Martha Stewart for one day wrapping these gifts.  First impressions count!

Ontario Wine Route

22 Oct

Copper Leaves From Maples Gently Slide…

Fall is my favorite time of the year.

I love the smell and crunch of fallen leaves under my feet.  I love to stand on the balcony and admire the rich ochres, bright lemon yellows, and dark reds in trees on the Beltline Trail.  I love crisp and sunny days when I get to pull out my boots, jackets and scarves.  I have my “best fashion moments” in fall!  I even love rainy days – they are perfect to stay in, eat soup, drink tea and curl up with a good book.

Eating a rich Thanksgiving meal, dressing up for Halloween and celebrating our birthdays makes me love this season even more!

I felt I was buried in the studio from mid-September until the Thanksgiving weekend.  Getting ready for the Canada Salsa Congress  (or any congress, for that matter) consumes a lot of time.    I was sooo missing out on this lovely time of the year!

It rained cats and dogs on Saturday.  Sunday morning greeted us with lots of sunshine and warm temperature.  We packed some proscuito-apple-arugula sandwiches for the road and headed for a scenic drive along Ontario Wine Route.

The drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake from Toronto took us less than 90 minutes.  After a small confusion over directions in the Google Maps we started our tour by stopping at Southbrook Vineyards.

We saw a large flock of birds flying in the distance.  We also heard lots of loud noises every couple minutes or so, as if we were at a fireworks show without any lights.  We met two ladies there and they explained that the growers are using propane-fired cannons (acoustical repellents) to scare birds away.  Bird damage to grapes is a serious problem for many vineyard owners.  Unchecked, birds can completely destroy an entire crop.

This property is so beautiful, I can totally see why people are celebrating their special occasions here.

Our next stop was Diamond Estates Wines.

I was tempted to buy a bottle of their 20Bees Gewürztraminer but it wasn’t on the tasting menu that day so I passed.

The third winery we went in was Trius at Hillebrand.

We ended up buying some wine here;  I got  2011 Vintage Riesling Dry and Oscar’s got 2011 Chardonnay.  We also got a complementary tasting certificate for 2 at Peller’s!

I was insisting a family member should get married here!

 We went to Joseph’s Estate Wines after.  I got another bottle; this time it was a 2008 Late Harvest Vidal, a sweeter table wine.  It smells like ripe peaches, honey and apricots!

The road was lined with several farm stands selling local edibles.

The prices were somewhat high.  Because of the harsh weather this year farmers  saw only 10% to 15% of the their crops 😦 Farming business is not for the faint of heart.

Take Me Home!

I bought a basket of Royal Gala apples.  They are sitting on the kitchen counter and my whole apartment smells like apples!

We visited more wineries – Pilliteri, Jackson-Triggs and Peller.  Each winery in Niagara has a unique atmosphere, we got an opportunity to taste some of the rare and fine wines but it was  getting overwhelming.  Next time we are limiting our visit to no more than 5 wineries.

The drive home was along the bank of the Niagara River.  The road is winding its way through enchanting cliffs, fruit orchards and large riverside houses.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers” –  L.M. Montgomery.

And so am I.

Cherry Blossom Walk

3 May

I have never liked spring, it has a mind of its own.  The unexpected “heat wave” in March was just a tease. We had days that felt like summer only to be followed by more cold spells.  Last Friday I saw flurries while driving to work.  Flurries in April!!!  These words should not even be in the same sentence.  And then there is spring cleaning.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love when my place is clean but I absolutely loath cleaning.  That’s a good reason not to like spring, don’t you think?

However I do like longer days, warmer weather and all the flowers that are starting to come up.  The blooming cherry blossoms in Toronto’s High Park is a must see!

Spring is here!

The trees look like they are wrapped in a pink foam.

These flowers are so delicate.

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