here and there

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Canadian Ukrainian Christmas Eve, Sviaty Vechir


Our annual trip to Northern Manitoba was delayed until Jan 5th as temperatures once again had dipped to minus 25 after New Years.  



You know it is cold when the icy cold weather has the appearance of 'Sundogs".  I really enjoyed the spectacular halo effect around the sun.



Sundogs are bright spots of light on either side of the sun caused by ice crystals, which act as tiny prisms bending light from the sun

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What you are seeing is a reflection of sunlight off the ice crystals in the clouds.  



After opening gifts at my brother's, we left for my Aunt's place in another small rural village. 


When we got there, my aunt and her sister were busy pan frying seasoned Manitoba Pickerel.  




I always learn something new, every time I help out during this preparation for Christmas Eve dinner.
For example, my aunt pre cooks the pyrohy before freezing them.  To prepare them for the meal, she once again heats the frozen pyrohy in boiling water until they are hot again.  Once again they are tossed in butter and served hot.











Nalysnyky Ukrainian crepes were also made before hand with homemade cottage cheese and frozen. They were placed in a roasting pan, drizzled with heavy creme and heated until hot.   According to my aunt, you need to be generous with the heavy creme for this delicacy to be delicious!





Mushrooms in a dill creme sauce.  Fresh dill from the garden had been frozen in the summer for this dish.  Aunty was most disappointed that she did not have wild mushrooms such as honey mushrooms (Pedipanky).




Aunty had two types of Cabbage Rolls, sweet and sour Kraut ones.  Again they were in a roasting pan being heated for the meal.


Each Ukrainian Christmas Eve meal starts with a prayer, carol and Kutcha.  Kutcha is a ritual dish make of wheat berries that have simmered in water all day with poppyseed and lastly sweeten with honey before serving. 






My Aunt in spite of not feeling well and  her legs hurting badly, continued with this feast.  It was most important for her to prepare these labor intensive dishes and host the meal for her family on January the 6th.  
The Prayer, Our Father starts the meal!

This made me reflect how important this meal was to my grandparents who hosted this annually and all their children would come in spite of the harsh winter weather.  My Mom continued to do the same even after my father's death.   There was always such great joy and happiness as we all assembled for the meal in her home.  The meal was always the same, yet full of excitement, expectations and tradition.   Gentle teasing of my Mom when the Kutcha was served that we should toss the wheat to see if it would stick on the ceiling.  The belief being that if it stuck to the ceiling, it was a sign that harvest would be plentiful.




The symbolism of this Holy meal include Kolach( Christmas Bread) that is braided into a ring, with three rings or loaves placed on top of another to symbolize the Holy Trinity.  A Didukh, a sheaf of wheat symbolizes the family ancestors.  Twelve dishes are prepared for this meal which represent the twelve apostles.  In Pre-Christian Pagan times, the twelve dishes represented a full moon that took place during the year.  

 The traditional dishes that were served are all meatless and not necessarily dairy free.  My grandmother did not use dairy in this meal at all, while my Mom did use dairy in her dishes.  Yes, there are those that still maintain this with meatless and dairy less dishes and believe that this is the only correct way.  Having grown up with both traditions, I do prepare dishes with dairy.  I believe that maintaining and sharing the symbolism of this meal with ones' family is more important that worry about whether the meal should also be dairy less.




With great disappointment, mass was cancelled in Keld due to cold weather.  When they checked the temperature of the wooden church in the afternoon of Jan 6th, it was still minus 25.  







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