Saturday, December 24, 2011

25 Days of Christmas: A Ukrainian Christmas with Cesya MaRae Cuono

Merry Christmas Eve! 25 Days of Christmas is winding to a close. Today, we have Cesya MaRae Cuono, author of The Elemental series, visiting with us!

Hey all, Cesya here. Merry Christmas Eve! I’m so glad I got this spot on Brea’s “25 Days of Christmas” blog event. And what better way to kick off Christmas Eve than to share my family’s Christmas Eve tradition with all of you.
So, as all of you know (or don’t know) I’m Ukrainian, Italian, German, Russian, and Dutch but mainly grew up on the Ukrainian side of traditions. Before my time, our Christmas Eve wasn’t until January 6th but as the times moved on it was celebrated on December 24th with all other religions. Since the changing of our Christmas Eve, our Christmas celebration goes from December 24th-January 6th (Feast of the Epiphany). The Christmas Eve Supper or Holy Supper (Ukrainian: Sviata Vecheria) is a very family oriented time. It’s a time dedicated to God, family, and ancestors. Dinner doesn’t begin until the first star appears in the sky. This star is believed to be the Star of Bethlehem and symbolizes the trek of the Three Wise Men. The table is covered with two tablecloths, one for the ancestors of the family, the second for the living members. In the old days hay was laid out under the table as well as under the tablecloths to remember that Christ was born in a manger. The table always has one extra place setting for the deceased family members, whose souls, according to belief, come on Christmas Eve and partake of the food. This year our table will have two place settings, one for my grandfather and one for my grandmother.
Now it’s time for our twelve-course meatless meal. There are twelve courses in our Holy Supper, because according to the Christian tradition each course is dedicated to one of Christ's Apostles.
The first course is always unleavened (flat) bread and wine, which represents Christ’s body and blood. It’s the main dish of our whole meal. The next course is honey which represents a sweet year to come. Then on to garlic which represents the ending of an old year. We’ve combined the first three courses and eat our bread with the honey and garlic on top and drink the wine with it. The next course is our soups: Cabbage and Split-Pea. The foods to follow in the remaining courses are prunes, fish (crab, shrimp, and tilapia), mushrooms (cooked in onions and butter), pierogies (homemade), salt and pepper (yes, they’re considered a course), and our desserts are assorted fruits and nuts.
So now you have my Christmas Eve traditions. I hope you learned something new! And I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!