Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Jesus’ birthday celebrated with special meal, services, caroling

Most Ukrainian Christians, Greek-Catholics and Orthodox in Ukraine, and many in the United States and Canada, will observe a strict fast today and in the evening will gather at family tables to partake in a special meal known as “Svyata Vecherya” (holy supper), traditionally consisting of 12 meatless courses, including the traditional “kutya” (pudding-like concoction of wheat grains, honey and poppy seeds), varenyky (pierogies) and “holubtsi” (cabbage rolls without hamburger meat).

My loving wife Katrusia had faithfully prepared and served these traditional meals for our family and usually two or three invited single individuals without family as guests for 60 years, until she became too ill three years ago. This year Katrusia and I will join other senior couples and individuals in the communal Holy Supper at our Parish Center after a 4 p.m. special service, “Velyke Povecherya” (Great Vespers) at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church.

This church service and subsequent meal will usher in the celebration of the birthday of Jesus, which will continue Thursday (Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ), Friday (Synaxis of the Most Holy Mother of God), and Saturday (First Martyr Archdeacon Stephen), observed by most Ukrainians and some other Eastern Christians whose church calendar is known as Julian. The three days following theHoly Supper are devoted to church services with special segments of the divine liturgy (Mass) and caroling, and visiting relatives and friends. In most cities and towns in Ukraine these days are filled with groups of carolers re-enacting the event in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago and singing carols in public squares and in front of people’s homes
There will be no membership meeting of Post 40 of the Ukrainian American Veterans, usually held every first Friday of the month, because of the holidays.
The next meeting will take place at 3 p.m., Feb. 5 at St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Religious and Cultural Center, known as the “Oseredok.”
The local branch 56 of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, known as “Soyuz Ukrayinok” (union of Ukrainian Ladies) will have its traditional New Year/ Christmas/Epiphany holidays “Zustrich” (meeting) at 4 p.m., Friday in St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Parish Center. These holiday meetings consist of socializing, light refreshments and pastries, with a lot of storytelling and caroling. Each member is allowed to invite only one guest, a relative or a close friend.

Katrusia, a longtime member and former member of the “Uprava” (executive board), hopes to feel good enough to attend the event. She graciously invited me to accompany her. Having attended these meetings in the past, I am looking forward to attending this year, knowing that a good time will be had by all.
One week from today on Jan. 13, an annual dinner-dance known as “Malanchyn Vechir” (Melanie’s Evening) will take place at the Ukrainian Catholic Parish Center. It will start at 9 p.m. and end at 1 a.m. Jan. 14.
Tickets, at $15 per person, must be ordered in advance. For more information, call 941-426-7931.

“Malanka” is the Ukrainian version of Melanie, and Jan. 13 is St. Melanie’s Holiday, according to the church calendar.

Atanas Kobryn covers the Ukrainian community for the North Port Sun. He can be emailed at

Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians
by Atanas Kobryn

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