Traditional Ukrainian Christmas supper served at Sturgis church

            A traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve supper was enjoyed by many at the Sturgis Grace United Church on December 9, when Rose Pozium and Ann Perpelitz were the head chefs.

            “Despite the fact that Ukrainian Christmas Eve is January 6, we decided to prepare and serve a traditional meal this month because of the coming holiday," said Rose Pozium. “The Ukrainian culture is fading and we want to help preserve it.”

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            The 12 meatless dishes served included: boiled wheat, braided bread, meatless borsht, fried fillets, pickled herring, buckwheat and rice cabbage rolls, baked perogies, sauerkraut perogies, sauerkraut and peas, beans, mushrooms and gravy, dried fruits, poppy roll, buns and honey cake.

            "There were 100 individuals who enjoyed the supper," said Mavis Morken. "Kylie, Ally and Mason Babiuk performed a Ukrainian dance and Kylie danced a solo. There were also displays of traditional clothing.”

            "Twelve different and special dishes are traditional for this meal which begins only after the first star of the evening appears,” Rose Pozium said. “The 12 dishes are to remind us of the 12 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 for this holy night.

            "Food for the holy supper is prepared with no meat or dairy products," she said. "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 special loaf of bread called a kolach. In the middle of the kolach, a candle is placed and left burning all night.

             "A lit candle is also placed in the window to welcome any homeless people,” she said. “There is always an extra table setting for the souls of the deceased. As dusk approaches, the head of the house brings in a sheaf of grain (didukh). As the star appears, the father carries a bowl of boiled wheat (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 Bredaishny.”

            The first dish of the 12 is always the wheat and the eldest of the family throws a spoonful of the wheat to the ceiling. The more kernels that stick to the ceiling, the greater the good luck in the following year, Pozium said.

            After the completion of the 12 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.