Elsie Kawulych’s Commentary on Ukrainian Christmas Eve
Elsie Kawulych had a commentary on Ukrainian Christmas Eve on a CFRN TV Presentation in 1980. A DVD was made of this presentation. The show was called, Holy Night-Ukrainian Christmas Eve. Kawulych was interviewed where she said a young lady who was looking through the window was looking for the sight of the very first star. “When the young girl said that she has seen the first star, her mother comes to make sure that her daughter seen it. Another girl brings out a lighted candle that she placed in the window for anyone who is homeless to invite them to drop in for supper. There is a spare chair set at the table for this person,” Kawulych said.
When Kawulych was asked about the preparing of the table for the Christmas Eve’s meal where the father and sons enter the household with sheaves of wheat and hay, she said, “The hay is placed under the table and over the top of the table and this is a symbol that Christ was born in a manger, the sheave of wheat means the grandfathers in all the families come together and it is placed in a special corner in the room where it honours the forefathers. The best tablecloth is used on Christmas Eve as it is a very holy and festive occasion for everyone. After this, the grandparents arrive where they give the first greeting which is Christ is born. Then the housewives are busy in the kitchen getting the 12 meatless dishes ready. The first thing they bring out is the three braided bread with the three candles which symbolizes the holy trinity. Then the kutya (wheat), borsch which is a beet soup, jellied fish and fried fish, cabbage rolls which are made with buckwheat, pickled herrings, whipped beans, beet salad, mushrooms, and varenyky (perogies which have many different fillings such as potatoes, sauerkraut, and fruits), compote, and we also have poppy seed roll which makes up the 12 dishes which is symbolic of the 12 apostles.
The kutya (wheat) is the first traditional lead-off dish; it is made from wheat and honey and it symbolizes the bountiful goodness of the earth. It is passed to each member of the family where they each take a teaspoon full. It is very important that everyone has a little bit of every one of the dishes.
Then the youth in the community go caroling from house-to-house. They bring greetings. They also remind people about the birth of Christ and announce it. Everybody waits for this on Christmas Eve. After the meal, people go out and carol, and other members of the family stay home and they do caroling until they go church in the evening,” Kawulych explained.