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  • The celebration of Christ's birth began with a Christmas Eve celebration, Holy Supper, which followed forty days of strict fasting. Customs varied over the Rusyn homeland and even from village to village. Among the customs observed in our village area:

  • Cleaning --the house was cleaned and even whitewashed from top to bottom in preparation for the sacred holiday

  • Animals-- the animals were fed first, before the supper began, because they had been with Jesus on the night of his birth

  • Evening star--the Holy Supper feast could not begin until the sighting of the first evening star--often the children, or the youngest child, searched for the star's appearance

  • Tablecloth--a white tablecloth covered the table and was a symbol of the Christ Child's swaddling clothes

  • Straw-- was placed under tablecloth and sometimes a sheaf was placed under the table or in a corner with holy icons--Hay or straw was very symbolic representing both the manger in which the Christ Child lay, but also the seeds for a prosperous harvest in the coming year

  • Fast meal--the Holy Supper was without meat--and in some homes, dairy products

  • Twelve courses--in many homes, there were twelve meatless courses--recipes passed on from generation to generation--symbolizing the apostles and the coming lunar cycles of the year

  • Prayer--the meal began with a prayer which asked for health and prosperity in the coming year--other prayers were added at the closing of the Supper

  • Bread--a loaf of bread was placed at the center of the table--often with a candle in it symbolizing Christ, the Light of the World

  • Honey and garlic--represented the bitter and sweet aspects of life--also present was the centuries old belief that garlic repelled evil spirits

  • First course--the first course was Kecelitsa--fermented oatmeal soup

  • Among the courses:
  •       mushroom soup
          pea soup
          cabbage soup
          mushrooms
          pierogi--cabbage and prune
          cabbage/potatoes
          beans
          stewed fruit
          herring

  • Attendance--family members and guests had to stay at the table for the entire meal--to leave the table meant that you would not live to be present at next year's Supper

  • Food tasting- no food could be left untasted --family and guests had to take a bite of each course--or they would be hungry in the coming year

  • Carols--after Holy Supper, carols were sung and the family left for the evening church liturgy

  • Coin Water---some descendants of our village ancestors describe washing in basins that had silver coins scattered in them on Christmas morning. The last child to wash would get to keep the coins. Washing in money would bring prosperity for the coming year.

  • First Guest--the first person to enter the home on Christmas Eve had to be a man (preferably dark-haired) for good luck--women would wait and let a man precede them into the home to ensure this good fortune.

  • If you know of village customs and recipes (or variations of those listed) that we do not have, please contact PatPelak@aol.com so that we may add your contribution to the website.
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