Ukrainian Christmas Eve Meal

Ukrainians following the Julian calendar observe Christmas (Rizdvo) on January 7th. One of the most delicious aspects of the celebration of this holy time is the traditional Christmas Eve supper. The meatless dishes number twelve to represent the twelve apostles. They are prepared without animal fat, milk or milk products and follow a period of fasting.

Traditional customs include:
• A handful of hay is spread on the table to represent the hay of Jesus’ manger and is covered with an embroidered tablecloth
• A kolach (braided round bread) symbolizing prosperity is placed in the centre of the table
• A sheaf of grain (didukh) is placed in the corner of the room and represents the gathering of the family
• A lit candle in the window is a message of welcome to the homeless
• An extra place setting at the table is set for any family member who died during the year
• As soon as the first star of the night appears in the eastern sky, the meal begins with the Lord’s Prayer
• The head of the household raises a spoon of kutia (wheat) as he invokes the grace of God and says “Khrystos Rodyvsia” (Christ is Born) to which the reply is “Slavit Yoho” (Glorify Him).
• Following the meal, Christmas Carols are sung. The oldest known koliady is “Boh Predvichny” (God Eternal).

The twelve dishes include:
1. Kutia (wheat with poppy seed and honey)
2. Sauerkraut & peas
3. Borshch
4. Jellied fish, stuffed salmon and pickled herring
5. Fried fish
6. Verenyky (pyrohy) with prune, sauerkraut, raisin, or poppy seed fillings)
7. Holubsti
8. Cooked broad beans
9. Beets with mushrooms
10. Stewed dry fruits
11. Kolach
12. Pompushky

If you’re lucky enough to get an invitation to supper, eat well and thank your Ukrainian ancestors because you are blessed.