The celebration actually commenced yesterday, on the eve of the feast, starting with a strict fast (no meat or dairy products), special church services and a festive 12-course dinner known as “Svyata Vecherya” (holy supper). All courses of the meal are also meatless and, traditionally, without dairy products, although the traditional ban on dairy products is more often than not ignored, especially in North America. Some of the Ukrainian dinner recipes include “borsch with vushka” (meatless beet soup with mushroom dumplings), “varenyky,” also known as “pyrohy” (pierogies stuffed with potato), “uzwar” (dried fruit compote), “holubtsi” (stuffed cabbage without meat), fish and special baked goods. The main dish that is almost identical in all regions of Ukraine and abroad is “kutia” (boiled wheat, poppy seeds and honey, often with crushed nuts and raisins). This is the first dish of the “Holy Supper.”
The Christmas (in Ukrainian “Rizdvo”) Eve supper, in addition to the traditional dishes, is also replete with many ancient traditional ceremonies, many predating Christianity. Many of these practices are still in effect in some Ukrainian villages. It is primarily a family affair, although in many localities, including here in North Port, churches sponsor community suppers to accommodate a large number of single or older and infirm members of the community. Caroling is an integral part of the festivities.
The two aforementioned North Port churches had these community suppers last night after special Christmas Eve church services.
Today’s continuous celebration will consist of special Christmas divine liturgies, which will be celebrated at 9 a.m. by the Rt. Rev. Ivan Fatenko for the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful at St. Andrew’s Church, and at 11 a.m. by the Rev. Dr. Severyn Kovalyshin, pastor, and the Rt. Rev. Mitred Archpriest Wolodymyr Woloszczuk, pastor-emeritus, at St. Mary’s Church. The rest of the day is devoted to visiting relatives and friends, and caroling.
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North Port Branch 56 of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, known as “Soyuz Ukrayinok” (union of Ukrainian ladies), headed by Ann-Marie Susla of Englewood, will hold its traditional annual holiday (Christmas and New Year’s) “Zustrich” (get-together) at 4 p.m. Friday at St. Andrew’s. Members can invite a guest, spouse or signifi- cant other.
The Zustrich, to celebrate the holiday season while enjoying delicious hors d’oeuvres and baked goods brought in by members, as well as a glass of wine, storytelling and caroling, will also include a presentation by Ann-Marie Susla of several awards approved by the last UNWLA XXX National Convention to members.
Atanas Kobryn covers the Ukrainian community for the North Port Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians
by Atanas Kobryn