Twelve different and special dishes are traditional for this meal which begins only after the first star of the evening appears. The twelve dishes are to remind us of the twelve Apostles.
After a day of fasting, in remembrance of the hardships that Mary endured as she and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem, preparations of a spiritual and physical nature set the mood of the Holy Night.
Food for the Holy Supper is prepared with no meat or dairy products. Hay is put under the table and under the tablecloth as a reminder of the humble place of Christ’s birth. On top of a white or embroidered tablecloth is placed a Kolach, in the middle of the table. In the middle of the Kolas a candle is placed which is left burning all night. A lit candle is also placed in the window, to welcome any homeless people. there is always an extra table setting for the souls of the deceased. As dusk approaches, the head of the house brings in a Didukh, a sheaf of grain, and places it near the Icons.
As the star appears, the father carries a bowl of Kutia around the home three times, reciting prayers. When all the family is at the table, prayers are recited and the Nativity Tropar is sung. “Boh Predvichny”.
The first dish of the twelve is always Kutia, the eldest of the family throws a spoonful of the kutia to the ceiling. The more kernels that stick to the ceiling, the greater the good luck in the following year.
After the completion of the twelve dishes, nuts and candies are scattered in the hay under the table for the children to find. Throughout the rest of the evening, Christmas carols are sung by the family.
When it is almost midnight, all the members of the family go to the Nativity Mass, a celebration of Christ Birth. The traditional greeting is “Khrystos Razdayetsia” (Christ is Born) to which one replies, “Slavite Yoho” (let us glorify him).
The following day and up to Yordan (Jordan) carollers visit families and friends, starting with the home of the priest, proclaiming the birth of Christ, our Saviour.
The Holy days of the Christmas season end on January 20th. The Feast of St. John the Baptist.
Traditional dishes for Ukrainian Christmas Eve:
- Meatless Borsch
- Stuffed Salmon or Fried Fillets
- Pickled Herring
- Meatless Holubtsi
- Varenyky – Potato, Sauerkraut or Prunes Sauerkraut and Peas
- Broad Beans or Mashed Beans
- Pidpenky with Gravy
- Compote (fruits)
- Pampushky, Makiwnyk