It will be a tough Christmas for many displaced Ukrainians living in central Alberta.
Christmas Eve falls on Jan. 6 on the Julian calendar, which is followed by many Ukrainians. This day marks the beginning of 14 days of Christmas celebrations.
St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church will host a private Ukrainian Christmas Eve Supper for about 60 people that night, featuring 12 traditional meatless dishes, to make new Canadians feel a little more at home.
“The meal starts with kutya, which is boiled wheat with honey and poppy seed,” explained Father Jim Nakonechny, who is also the the chair of the Ukrainian Displaced Persons Planning Committee.
“In the rural communities, the father of the house would fling a spoon of it to the ceiling. The more kernels of wheat that stuck to the ceiling, the better the harvest was predicted for the new year.”
About 500 displaced Ukrainians have come to the Red Deer area since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
“The reason we wanted to celebrate together this year is because so many of these families are used to celebrating in the village or going to their parents or grandparents,” said Nakonechny.
“This is a big family celebration. Everybody would come together for the Christmas Eve supper, then they would go to church for a midnight divine liturgy, or a midnight mass, then go Christmas carolling in the villages.”
It’s a hard time for many Ukrainian families because the bombs are still being dropped on their home country, Nakonechny said.
“This year, with so many families that have been uprooted from their extended families, we thought we should come together and celebrate together to make it a little more joyful. They’re worried about their families in Ukraine, but we can worry together and celebrate at the same time,” he said.
“We’re coming together as a community … and hoping 2023 will be much better.”
St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church will also host a public Christmas liturgy on Ukrainian Christmas this upcoming Saturday, Jan. 7, at 10 a.m.
The new big celebration for Ukrainians is Malanka, which is a new year’s event held on Jan. 14. This year, the Kvitka Ukrainian Dance Club will host a celebration at Festival Hall that night.
The Feast of Jordan, on Jan. 19, is the final day of the Christmas season, which features the blessing of the water, Nakonechny explained.
“We usually have an ice cross outside by the church and we bless water … to purify for another year. If the weather’s nice we’ll do a water blessing outside on the closest Sunday to the 19th,” he said.