Through my Ukrainian parentage, my religion, Ukrainian Greek Catholic, we use the old Julian calendar, similarly to the Orthodox faith and as such when everyone else is wrapping up their celebrations, mine are starting (again).
6th January is Christmas Eve which is celebrated arguably with more ceremony than 7th January which is Christmas Day itself. Prompted by the first star seen in the sky that evening, a 12 course pescatarian meal commences with Kutia to start with (a wheatberry, honey and poppy seed mix) and ends with a dried fruit compote known as Uzvar with plenty of hot dishes in between.
|Image: Owner unknown, sourced from internet|
The table is laid with a candle in the middle to mark the star that guided the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem, straw is scattered around the table to symbolise the straw from the manger and a straw wheat arrangement (known as a Didukh) which represents one's ancestors is placed at the end of the table. A small gesture to remember those that are no longer with us.
|Homemade Pampushky Garlic Bread|
Eaten on Christmas Eve
Image: Word In Veg Ways
Christmas Day (7th) traditionally commences with a mass at church and more feasting.
New Year's Eve on 13th January (known as Malanka) brings about its own style of merriment with a Zabava (a dance) being held the old villages and towns in Ukraine, just like it is in a lot of the Ukrainian communities here in the UK. (I've never left one sober....)
It all ends with Epiphany on 19th January, known as 'Jordan' (Йордан) as this marks the day that Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan. In Ukraine, church services are held for the whole village by the riverside, ice sculptures are made in the shape of a crucifix, water is blessed which is consumed and often houses are blessed with holy water by the priest. Some brave souls even swim in the icy cold water and with typical temperatures of -3 degrees - rather them than me!
So I always endeavour to celebrate as much as I can, hence my January is busy, busy, busy! I do my best to make the 12 dishes, I lay the table just so, I dance my heart out on the 13th and yesterday, I sprinkled holy water around my house for Йордан.
You can understand now why there is no way I can take part in any faddy diet or participate in Dry January! What sort of Christmas would that be?!
I've got the best of both worlds and I love it!