By Dan Kinvig, The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon), Canada.com,
Saskatoon, SK, Canada, January 7, 2004
SASKATOON......Father Taras Makowsky points to a blotch of food
on his ceiling over the dining room table. "That's where I usually sit," he
Each year, Makowsky throws a spoonful of boiled wheat thickened with honey
on the ceiling as part of his family's Ukrainian Christmas celebration. "The
more wheat that sticks to the ceiling, the more fruitful the year," he said
in an interview Tuesday, Ukrainian Christmas Eve.
Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, a tradition that dates back to the
11th century, when the Catholic and Orthodox churches split. The Orthodox
church follows the Julian, rather than the Gregorian, calendar, and
Ukrainians have taken to celebrating their Christmas 13 days later than
Two-year-old Mathew Hrycuik is not much bigger than the
traditional bread set out for the Makowsky family as they celebrated
Ukrainian Christmas Tuesday
CREDIT: Greg Pender, The StarPhoenix
Ukrainian Christmas is the climax of 40 days of fasting. Sometimes people
will not eat meat on Wednesdays and Fridays, or even for the whole 40-day
People give up "things that would have given us pleasure," Makowsky says.
"It's a good test on one's soul."
Makowsky believes Dec. 25 has become a very secular holiday, based on
materialism. "For us, (Ukrainian Christmas) is a much more spiritual
celebration," he says.
Ukrainian Christmas is loaded with spiritual symbolism. The Christmas Eve
feast consists of 12 meatless dishes, representing the 12 apostles of
Christ. The bread is braided in three strands, signifying the Father, the
Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Makowskys leave one place setting at their table empty to honour
deceased relatives. After a midnight mass, they return home to officially
break the 40-day fast.
Craig Zaychkowsky's tradition is to go carolling in his brightly coloured
Ukrainian dancing outfit.
The 25-year-old bank employee, and other members of the Yevshan Ukrainian
Dancers, will walk to friends' houses and sing for them in Ukrainian.
They are often invited inside. "You eat a ridiculous amount of food," he
Celebrating Christmas later helps to bring Ukrainians together, Zaychkowsky
says. "It's a good way to stay within the community. Everybody knows each
For Audrey Matushewski, Ukrainian Christmas is all about family. "It's a
very nice blessing when you have all the family in," she says. If a family
member is missing, "it isn't the same."
There are 75 people on Matushewski's side of the family. "That's quite a
crowd," she says. "There's no way you can prepare that much food!"
Makowsky estimates that there are 25,000 Ukrainians in the Saskatoon area.
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