Saturday, January 06, 2007

Christmas Time Again!

Tonight is Christmas Eve, for me and the many other Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox Christians who celebrate Christmas using the old calendar.

When I was a child, we got a few works of this great artist named Yaroslava to hang in my room - I love them, they depict wonderful scenes of the everyday life of peasants in Ukraine. This is a great little scene of Christmas eve, and it features many of the elements of Sviat Vechir (what we call Christmas eve):

You see the children pointing out the window at the first star in the sky that night? Once the kids see the first star, dinner can begin! And on the table and surrounding areas you can see some of the traditional foods. It is a meatless and dairyless meal, consisting of kutia (the first thing you eat - wheat & poppy seeds in honey), potato or sauerkraut filled perogies, meatless borscht, and one or two preparations of fish, as well. It's traditional to have 12 dishes, to symbolize the 12 Apostles (but that's a lot of work if you only have a few people coming over, so many people just have some of the dishes). The father is bringing in the didukh, a big sheaf of wheat that sits in the corner, symbolizing our ancestors at the feast. The mother is holding an elaborately decorated bread. Ukrainians have decorated bread for EVERY OCCASION. VERY bread-oriented people. :) This one is called a kolach, and has a lighted candle in the centre. As you can see, Ukrainian Christmas is full of symbolism -- and lots of fun too! It just wouldn't be Christmas without a rousing rendition of the carol Boh Predvichnyi, which we always sang after grace, but before eating. :)

To read another person's fond memories of Ukrainian Christmas in Canada (a guy by the name of Ruslan Tracz), go here. (I'll have to post my own fond memories sometime!)

A great menu for Sviat Vechir with lots of recipes can be found here.

And there's a great little site showing more of Yaroslava's wonderful works here.