Різдвяні традиції

Christmas traditions of our family

For me, Christmas always begins after St. Nicholas Day. As soon as there is tangerine smell in the house, rustle of a package with candies under a pillow, it means that soon we will start to spruce up the house, put the Christmas tree, make kutia and prepare for the Holy Supper. Every family has their own Christmas traditions, and ours is not an exception.

At our house we put the Christmas tree before New Year. Usually we decorate it with candies, nuts, tinsel and several big glass ornament balls, which still remember my grandma as a small girl.

Somewhen right after New Year I will definitely go to the Cathedra – put fingers in the Holy Water, pray, look at a crib and listen to an organ. It is my tradition to commemorate my grandma, with whom we went there every year. I still, as a small girl, like how gratefully porcelain angel nods, if you throw a coin in a metal box.

Several days before Christmas are usually very active in the house – somebody prepares poppy seeds for kutia, somebody makes varenyky, at night jellied meat quietly burbles in a crock. But every family has its own traditions and recipes, without which it is difficult to imagine Christmas Eve and Christmas. We are not an exception.

We cover the table with white tablecloth, under which we put hay, on the corners of the table we put cloves of garlic, put kolach and a candle. And also, we always set table for one more person, for souls of those who passed away, who will come to join us at Holy Supper; or for an accidental wanderer.

We begin the supper with a prayer and share kutia. After that we greet each other with Christmas and sing carol “The eternal God” – the favorite carol of our family. My grandad also threw kutia to ceiling – if is sticks, then the year will be successful.

Our kutia is quite dense. We boil wheat which was in water whole night, add well-grinded poppy seeds, honey, pounded nuts and steamed raisins. Sometimes we add a skin from an orange for nice smell. We regulate density and sweetness with uzvar.

My grandma always baked kolaches based on the recipe from her pre-war notes from Kolomyia. I have the greatest treasure – an old pink folder “case N”, where are carefully put cuts from Polish newspapers and magazines, napkins with recipes, notebooks all covered with writing. Looking through them you can find different wonders: a label from a pre-war seasoning or wine, wraps from forgotten candies, but, mainly, tinsels. We, children, valued it the most.

Here is how we make kolaches:
For 1 kolach you need 1 liter of flour for solution, 50 grams of yeast, spoon of sugar and enough milk to make this like a dense sour cream. If it turns sour – add well-grounded yolks (4 yolks for kolach), add third of a glass with melted butter, a bit of salt, a bit of sugar and start kneading dough, while adding flour. You need to knead it till it starts unsticking from hands, then cover it with napkin and put in a warm place to rise. As soon as it rises and starts cracking – put on a table, divide into 3 or 4 parts, make a braid, put in a baking pan and let it rise again.

Before baking, rub it with an egg and sprinkle poppy seeds. Bake in a hot oven till brown skin.

And this recipe can be a great idea, if for Holy Supper you want something more interesting than just a fried fish.

Ґуґлі з коропа в ґаляреті

Balls from a carp in a jelly

Clean a big carp, remove scales, cut a head, fin and tale, peal skin and meat from bones.

Grind the meat several times, add stale bread soaked in milk, a beaten egg, salt, pepper and make balls with your wet hands, their size should be like a walnut. Also, mince can be spiced as you wish – for example, add grinded onion, rosemary or caraway seeds. The balls should be steamed – for that put on the crock with boiling water a colander, put balls on it and cover with a lid. They are ready soon – 15-20 minutes.

While the balls are being steamed, take scales, fins, spine and skin of the fish and put it in a thick cheesecloth bag, add carrot, root and herb of parsley, onion with skin and make a small amount of soup. Onion for the soup is good to bake on a dry frying-pan or over gas – the taste will be more interesting. For those who like it, you can add parsnip or celery. Sift made soup through a colander, add salt and pepper as you wish. If the wish was big, then such soup will harden as a broth jell, if not – you can add isinglass.

0Lay cooled balls in a semi-deep dish, decorate with cooked carrot, leaves of parsley and carefully add soup. Put in the fridge to harden.

This dish goes well with a sauce from grated horse radish, with vinegar, sugar and salt. You can also make a home-made mayo with yolk, mustard, oil, vinegar, sugar and salt.

If you don’t want to play around with a carp and its bones, then you can take different fish, say a yellow-fin tuna – its meat is delicious, while there are less bones and it’s easy to take them out. You can also bake it with lemon and herbs.

A must-have Christmas dish is a “borsch with vushka”.  This special borsch is eaten only twice a year – on Christmas Eve and Epiphany (we do not count here when you finish eating it with sour cream next days).

I live so many years and still don’t know what I like more – borsch or pierogis, we always had heated fight for the number of pierogis in borsch.

So, that’s what you need for true Christmas borsch:

handful of dried white mushrooms
2-3 quite big beetroots
3-4 potatoes
1 big carrot
2 onions
half celery
parsley’s root, dried herbs, whole allspice, bay leaf
salt to taste

Rinse mushrooms and put them in the water for the night. In the morning, drain water, rinse mushrooms once again, put them in a big crock, salt and boil. When it comes to a boil – skim off the foam. While mushrooms are boiling, add there onion with skin, parsley’s root, celery. When the mushrooms are ready – put everything on a plate and pour some mushroom broth in a cup. Throw away onion, celery and parsley.

oroughly, wrap in foil and bake in not very hot oven around1.5-2 hours.
Then let them cool, peal and grate.

Boil beetroots with skin separately. Rou can also bake them in the oven. For it you need to wash them th


Grate carrot and fry it a little bit on the oil. Put this fried carrot in the mushroom broth, after 5 minutes – potatoes, cut into wedges. Salt a bit. Add whole allspice.

Meanwhile, finely chop one onion and fry it on the oil till it becomes transparent. Add teaspoon of sugar.

When potatoes are almost ready – add grated beetroot and fried onion. When it comes to a boil – pour sifted beetroot kvas and add at least 1 teaspoon of sugar.

How much kvas? – To your taste…It shouldn’t be too sour, but this flavor should be felt very distinctly on the background of the whole composition. You also should remember that potato will absorb excessive sour and taste will be softer.

As soon as it comes to a boil – add bay leaf, dried or fresh herbs, put a lid on and turn off. It should infuse at least several hours.

Meanwhile you can make vushka…
Mushrooms, which were boiled in borsch, grind or finely chop, add fried onion, salt and pepper.
Make small varenyks and stick edges to each other. Boil in a quite salty water and dry on the table. Put in a bowl, and a little bit smear them with oil, so they don’t stick to each other.

The only alcoholic drink we have at our house at the Holy Supper is mead. When you drink you wish to do the same “in a year from now”.

For good mead we should have –
horilka –  say, 3 liters
honey–at least one glass of honey for 1 liter of horilka
half stick of cinnamon
a bit of grated nutmeg
5-7 seeds of cardamom
5-7 allspices
2-3 tellicherry peppers
10-12 cloves
2 anise stars
vanilla – at the edge of the knife
2-3 oranges
Bowl with thick sides and one for easy skimming off the foam.

Pound all seasonings in a mortar. Thoroughly wash oranges, soak in boiled water and carefully peal. Smell of orange’s skin is very important. Orange should be sour, because skin of sweet oranges doesn’t have needed smell.

Heat honey in a bowl on a slow fire. When honey is well heated, and foam starts appearing – put it away and very carefully skim off the foam. Heat again – put off again, until foam stops appearing. Usually it’s 5-6 heatings. Don’t let honey boil!

Then put seasonings in the hot honey, put a lid on and put away to cool. Again, heat a bit, add there half glass of horilka and put away for half an hour.

Then in a bowl mix honey and the rest of horilka, thoroughly rinse bowl with horilka. Let it be for at least a week. If it cold in the house – mead will infuse longer. All honey should completely dissolve.

Filter in bottles through sick layer of cotton. If after the first filtering mead is not transparent, filter several times.

If mead is given to desert – you can drink it heated. If instead of horilka – cold.

And, for sure, varenyky with potato and cabbage, shukhy – a salad from beetroots and mushrooms, lean cabbage rolls from sauerkraut and grated potato with mushroom sauce, salad from red cabbage, herring and beans.

But who am I to teach you? You know everything well.

Happy holidays and we’ll meet again happy and healthy in a year from now!