Growing up in a Ukrainian home makes the holidays a joyous adventure.
The decadently painted Christmas eggs, the corn, the decorations, the family, and the well-wishing is specially designed to bring us together in observance of Chrystos Razhdayetsya (the birth of Christ). In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite reasons to love the season:
Reason #1: Two Christmases and one epic Season of Thankfulness.
This special holiday honoring the birth of Christ begins like Western traditions in accordance with the Gregorian Calendar on Dec. 6. We decorate houses, spread cheer, have family dinners and open presents on Dec. 24 and 25. Our Christmas season goes beyond the New Year as we celebrate Orthodox Christmas Day on Jan. 7 and continue the season of cheer through the Julian Calendar on Jan. 19. The Shopka, or Nativity Scene, placed in homes allows ample time to reflect on our gratitude for the good fortune and the blessings our faith has provided throughout the year.
Reason #2: Sviata Vecherya, the food
Saint Nick drops by and blesses our twelve-dish Christmas Eve dinner preparations. My favorite is Kutia (a sweet, grain pudding). It’s the first dish served and provides a fun moment in the meal. Stories of my grandfather (Dido) throwing a spoonful to the ceiling is one of my favorites. The ingredients in the pudding, symbolizing our differences, go up and unity comes down. It’s the one time of year where throwing food is not only acceptable but incredibly meaningful.
Reason #3: The singing
The world-famous Christmas carol, “Carol of the Bells,” stems from the Ukrainian song “Shchedryk.” Koliadky, or caroling, often follows the Sviate Vecherya meal. In communities across Ukraine, neighbors join together in song and celebration. Cliché, unrealistic movie scenes of random people happily singing in unison? It happens in Ukraine, and it is one of the most beautifully, heart-touching moments a person can experience.
The Christmas season is my favorite part of growing up Ukrainian. My name even translates to “born on Christmas day,” and it is not an accident that such a meaning would be chosen. Christmas, for us, brings out the best in each of our hearts. It unites us together in a way that no other season can. The reasons above to love our extended celebration are only the tip of the iceberg. May your Christmas last long, and may you find joy in Chrystos Razhdayetsya.
Tasha Kobito (Kabitovych) is a Staff Writer for The Daily Runner.