Twelve Course Ukrainian Christmas
Christmas in the Beautiful Badlands brings friends and families together. Traditions are demonstrated in the most intense way of the entire year.
Western North Dakota and eastern Montana are resplendent with many cultures. Among them, the Ukrainian culture holds a strong place.
Tradition of Ukrainian Food
Many important traditions which celebrate Christmas in Ukraine center around food. The North Dakota Ukrainian Cultural Institute in Dickinson, North Dakota, provided us much information about those customs in the organization’s Winter 2017 newsletter.
‘Sviaty Vechir’, or Holy Evening is also called ‘Sviata Vecharia’, Holy Dinner. It centers around a twelve course meal. That derives from the number of courses dating back to pagan belief and representing each full moon of the year.
Begin the Celebration!
First in this Christmas tradition is a day of fasting This is done in remembrance of the hardships endured by Mary and Joseph as they travelled to Bethlehem. It also helps to prepare spiritually for the upcoming feast.
There are no meat or dairy products used in the food made for the Christmas Eve dinner. Traditionally, hay is placed under the table and on the tablecloth to signify humility.
Twelve Dinner Courses
The meal begins only after the appearance of the first star of the evening, the star of Bethlehem on Christmas. Twelve separate dishes, or courses, are traditional:
- Kutia/Kutya – cooked wheat combined with honey, ground poppy seed, and sometimes nuts
- Kolach – bread braided into a ring, or three rings on top of each other, to symbolize the Trinity
- Meatless Borshch – beet soup made without meat or meat stock, for this ocassion
- Stuffed Salmon or Fried Fillets – Baked Cod
- Pickled Herring
- Meatless Holubtsi – cabbage rolls
- Varenyky (Pyrohy) – Potato, Sauerkraut, Prunes – made without bacon fat, butter, or cheese
- Broad Beans or Mashed Beans – to signify prosperity in the coming year
- Pidpenky with Gravy – mushrooms with gravy
- Compote of dried fruits or Medivnyk (Honey Cake) – as a dessert
- Pampushky, Makiwnyk – garlic bread puffs
After the meal, it is common to scatter nuts and candies for children to find. Christmas carols are often sung, and there may be a Nativity Mass at midnight to celebrate the birth of Christ.
A ring of braided bread, Kolach is in the middle of the table, along with a candle. There is an extra table setting for the souls of the dead.
A Traditional Ukrainian Christmas Recipe
Kutia or Kutya, Wheat Salad
A dish usually eaten only at Christmas in Ukrainian culture is Wheat Salad, which is cooked wheat, poppy seed, honey, and pecans. Thanks to the ND Ukrainian Cultural Institute for this recipe:
- 1.5 cup cooked wheat (cold)
- 1 – 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
- 1 small pkg. vanilla pudding mix
- 1 can pineapple, drained
- 12 oz container Cool Whip
Mix well. May add chopped nuts. Chill.
For the Cooked Wheat:
Clean 2 – 3 cups of wheat grain. Wash, soak overnight. Cover with clean water and cook slowly, may use slow cooker. Cook until kernels pop (or are almost ready to pop). May freeze small amount and use as needed.
We Want to Hear From You!
What are your family traditions at Christmas, and for other holidays? Recipes to share? We’d love to spread the word! Please, contact us HERE to share your thoughts, your recipes, your favorite cookbooks. Got a great cook we should interview?? Let us know! We’d love to showcase them!
The Ukrainian Cultural Institute is a wonderful resource. It’s a wealth of information about Christmas traditions of western North Dakota. The institute is located at 1221 West Villard Street in Dickinson, North Dakota. Make sure you access their website: www.ucitoday.org and their very active Facebook page: ND Ukrainian Cultural Institute
Learn about our favorite Ukrainian restaurant in western North Dakota, Four Corners Cafe & Catering, Fairfield, North Dakota. They stage a great Christmas spread at the Chateau de Mores in Medora! Read about that here: This Ethnic Food Rocked the Chateau in Medora!
Where can one go for great Ukrainian food? Four Corners Cafe & Catering in Fairfield, North Dakota. That’s where! You’ll find it right on US Highway 85, north of Belfield and south of Grassy Butte. It is worth the drive! Tell our friends there that we sent you.
Learn about another traditional Christmas food in western North Dakota by clicking here: Lefse.It Rocks!
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