Christmas traditions of Ukrainian culture

From our January 2013 issue

By Sophia (Zabalski) Raczynski – Sedley, Sask.

Being the oldest, celebrating Ukrainian Christmas Eve on Jan. 6 brings back many memories when I was at home living with our parents, sisters, and brothers.

The kitchen was decorated with crepe paper streamers twisted in two different colours and hung to the ceiling. The centre and the ends with a ball or stars which were made of coloured tissue paper formed into an opened honeycomb shape.

Dad would bring in a sheaf of oats and place it in the corner of the room to represent Christ. The smell of fresh hay placed between the white oilcloth and table and the rest of the hay scattered on the floor under the table was strong. The candle lit in the centre of the oblong table, where we children sat on the bench against the wall and chairs around. We didn’t have the 12 meatless dishes.

We started with a prayer then dad gave us each a sip of wine. Mom prepared the meatless supper of borscht, two kinds of perogies – one with potatoes and cottage cheese and the other kind with sauerkraut and buckwheat.

A gravy was made using dried mushrooms which when prepared was soaked overnight and cooked the following day when the mushrooms were soft and dark making the gravy dark.

We had sauerkraut with dried winter peas. Dessert was stewed prunes and apples. While eating, the flickering of the candle enabled us to see each other. We didn’t have power then. That was something to admire and remember.

We continue this tradition as a family and on our own until our dad became a resident of the Wolseley Care Home.

We celebrated Christmas Eve and Sister Nestor was there along with the Ukrainian and Polish seniors who lived there. My sister, Anne, and I, along with our husbands, were invited for one night for supper. We sang carols in Ukrainian. My husband and I, and our two sons, celebrated Christmas in December, having the food along with kutia (wheat) and perogies which were added from my husband’s family.

Now on my own, I celebrate by flying to my two sons and families homes in Alberta and Ontario, alternating each year and staying a week.

I do decorate my two artificial trees with tiny ornaments made and bought through the years, light up the tree, put on a CD tape of Ukrainian carols and sing along with it.