A very Holy time

It’s Christmas today for Orthodox Christians and Eastern Rite Catholics who follow the Julian calendar for religious events.

About 6,000 Londoners in Canada, celebrated Christmas Eve last night on a day when many city residents took down coloured lights and disposed of dried out fir trees.

It’s Christmas today for Orthodox Christians and Eastern Rite Catholics who follow the Julian calendar for religious events instead of the Gregorian dates familiar to most Canadians.

“This is a very holy time and the most important family occasion of the year for parishioners who follow their traditions,” said Rev. Zen Didukh of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Christ the King on Nelson Street.

Last night, a few blocks from the church, most homes no longer displayed the signs of Christmas. But white, green and red lights still shone brightly on two trees on the front lawn of the Hryckiw family. Inside, the Hryckiw family was preparing to sit down to a meal prepared in a manner learned from their mothers and grandmothers.

In a Ukrainian household, 12 dishes are served on Christmas Eve, all meatless and none containing dairy products. And today they will eat meat, turkey, chicken and pork. The 12 dishes, symbolic of Christ’s 12 Apostles, include a braided bread called kolach, wheat cooked with honey, poppy seeds and chopped nuts, borshch (beet soup) with perogies, fish, cabbage rolls, beans and fruit.

The Christmas Eve feast signifies the end of a period of fasting, said the priest. “Some people fast for five or six weeks. They don’t eat meat or dairy foods for three days a week during that time. It’s a period of fasting, prayer and performing charitable works.”

After dinner last night, they planned to attend mass to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and other gifts from God. As for Earthly gifts, exchanged by family members and friends, the tradition varies from family to family living in London, Canada.

Some families will exchange gifts (today), but many won’t. That’s because most Ukrainians give gifts, especially to children, on the feast of St. Nicholas in early December. It’s a misconception that Ukrainians take advantage of Boxing Day sales to acquire gifts for their Christmas. Most of them have already exchanged gifts by then. When their Christmas comes, they place the emphasis on God and family.

Carolling is a must on Christmas also. They sing carols at home, in church and at the homes of their friends.