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  • #344788

    Anonymous

    Found this story on Rusyn Christmas customs.  I have no idea if still followed and was wondering how they compare to other Slavic ones.

    Carpatho-Rusyn / Slovak Christmas Customs Vary

    As is true with all countries, customs and traditions vary from region to region and family to family. The majority of Slovaks are Roman Catholic but there are also large contingents of Greek or Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

    Even though Byzantine and Orthodox Christians, who follow the Julian calendar, celebrate Christmas Eve on Jan. 6 and Christmas Day on Jan. 7, one thing is universal — velija (veh-LEE-yah), literally "vigil" and meaning Christmas Eve Holy Supper or Stedry Vecer.

    Velija is a 12-dish (the number of dishes symbolizes the apostles) meatless feast whose preparations begin early on Christmas Eve. It is a solemn meal that brings the family together, sometimes from hundreds of miles away.
    The Velija Table Is Prepared

    Hay or straw is placed under the tablecloth or under the table — or both — symbolizing Christ's humble birth in a manger. A fine white tablecloth is placed over the straw representing the Babe's swaddling clothes. An extra place is always set to receive a traveling stranger who might be the Christ Child in disguise and to honor a deceased loved one.

    Dinner doesn't begin until the first star of the evening is sighted, a job given to the young children of the household to keep them occupied while dinner is prepared.
    Oplatky

    Prayers and blessings are followed by breaking and eating the oplatky, a Communion-like wafer stamped with a nativity scene, spread with honey to symbolize the unleavened bread of the Passover supper. The husband breaks oplatky with his wife with good wishes and a kiss, and so it goes down the line of children from oldest to youngest. The head of the household dips his thumb in honey and makes the sign of the cross on everyone's forehead as a reminder to keep Christ foremost in their lives.

    Coming from the Latin word oblata (offering), oplatky are common to many Eastern Europeans, including Poles (who call them oplatki). Some say the custom started when snowbound villagers couldn't make it to midnight Mass on Christmas. The parish priest gave them blessed wafers weeks in advance so they could still partake in the Eucharist.

    Each family contributed a share of flour to make the oplatky for the entire village on Dec. 13, the day after St. Lucy Day. After baking, the priest blessed the oplatky and children distributed them to each family with memorized Christmas greetings or Vins.
    The Feast Begins

    Once the oplatky have been shared, the meal begins with a toast of, usually, homemade red wine, followed by some type of tart soup (continuing the exodus theme of recalling the bitterness of slavery) — machanka (sour mushroom), potato, or maybe pea soup with barley.

    Next come freshwater fish, usually floured and quickly fried. Carp, trout and white fish are common. Bandurky (potatoes), bobalki (baked dough balls) with honey and poppyseeds or sauerkraut and onion, holubky (cabbage rolls) stuffed with mushrooms and rice, pagach, sometimes known as "Slovak pizza," which is thin raised dough baked either in a single or double layer filled with sweet cabbage or mashed potatoes, and pirohy dumplings filled with sweet cabbage, sauerkraut, prune lekvar, or cheese. Some families like loksa, a potato pancake type of dish.

    Dessert is usually kolaci, strudels filled with walnuts, poppyseed, prune butter or cheese, apples and nuts. It is believed the order in which the courses are served signifies the sweetness, sourness, and sweetness, again, of life — honey on the oplatky, sour soup, sweet pastries.
    After the Meal

    When the meal is finished the kolady or carols are sung. Sometimes there is a visit from the jaslickari or Star Carolers — young men and boys dressed as the Three Kings or shepherds and an angel carrying a star on a pole. One member of the group carries a creche and, in song, tells the story of the nativity. Then, if they aren't snowbound, families bundle up and head off to midnight Mass.
    Superstitions

    Some families throw walnuts into the corners of every room to ensure good luck for the coming year. Others break them open to foretell the future. The four quarters of the walnut represent a quarter of the year. If one or more sections is healthy, then the coming year will be a good one. If one or more sections is black and shriveled, watch out!

    No one is allowed to leave the table until the meal is finished. To do so would result in bad luck (or death) in the year to come. A lighted candle is on the vilija table during the entire meal. In some families, at the end of the supper, the candle is blown out by the eldest person. If the smoke goes up, the person's luck will be good. If it goes down, bad luck and, possibly, death await. The candle is then relighted and passed to the next eldest person until everyone has his chance. A final prayer is said by the head of the household and then it is deemed safe to leave the table.

    Poppyseeds are eaten with abandon because they're considered lucky, recalling the pagan tradition of scattering poppyseeds at the doorway so an evil spirit intent on entering would be so preoccupied with picking up each tiny seed, it wouldn't enter the house.
    A Very Unusual Tradition

    In some areas of Slovakia and Ukraine, the head of the household takes a spoonful of bobalki, loksa or kutia (a dish of boiled wheat mixed with honey, raisins and nuts) and throws it up on the ceiling. The more that sticks, the bigger the crops will be in the coming year!
    Christmas Ornaments

    Among the ornaments Slovaks hand on their Christmas trees are embossed wax eggs, known variously as kraslice, pysanky, kraseny jajcja, pysanka, pysane jajce, and farbanka. This art originated in Northeastern Slovakia and Southeastern Poland. Designs — geometric patterns, caricatures, scenery, angels and religious symbols — are drawn on natural-colored or dyed hollow eggshells with a kiska or metal pin and colored wax. Sometimes the eggs are painted with oils or acrylic paints with the embossed wax reserved for trimwork. They are displayed in special holders during the other seasons of the year

    #405476

    Anonymous

    eeh the article mixes up various traditions from various ethnographic regions (region has a bigger influence on differences in traditions than ethnicity, generally)
    vast majority of byzantine catholics dont celebrate christmas on 6th-7th january by g. calendar, but on 24th-25th december; and so do many orthodox – this decision is up to every local church community
    for example vilija (never heard "velija") with 12 dishes. I never heard about that. many rusyns dont use wafers (and for them wafers arent communion-like, since eastern christians have communion in form of bread+wine, not wafers); but bread (wafers are influence from roman catholics)
    drinking wine wasnt really widespread in eastern slovakia until recently, when most people can afford a bottle of wine. i never heard about eating fish in eastern slovakia during christmas. maybe only in households that were influenced by western traditions?
    also mentioning midnight mass is quite misleading in story about rusyn christmas
    i know my critic is unsystematic, but right now i dont really have time (pre-exam period + judgment for tomorrow + test, goodluckhavefun  ;D )

    you can remind me later, if you want. like tomorrow.

    #405477

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    eeh the article mixes up various traditions from various ethnographic regions (region has a bigger influence on differences in traditions than ethnicity, generally)
    vast majority of byzantine catholics dont celebrate theophany on 6th-7th january by g. calendar, but on 24th-25th december; and so do many orthodox – this decision is up to every local church community

    You mean Christmas? Theophany is 6th january according to Gregorian ;)

    #405478

    Anonymous

    😮
    how could this happen. yea i mean christmas. why i mixed it with theophany. and i really had a weird feeling when i wrote that  ;D
    am sorry  ;D
    you see what college does with me. i wasnt born for such huge strain, maximum i can readily take is sitting in chair, olives in one hand, wine in the other and talking about things  ;D

    #405479

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    😮
    how could this happen. yea i mean christmas. why i mixed it with theophany. and i really had a weird feeling when i wrote that  ;D
    am sorry  ;D
    you see what college does with me. i wasnt born for such huge strain, maximum i can readily take is sitting in chair, olives in one hand, wine in the other and talking about things  ;D

    It happens. I offten misspell half of my message ;D

    #405480

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    olives in one hand, ;D

    Olives…. ? :D

    #405481

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    eeh the article mixes up various traditions from various ethnographic regions (region has a bigger influence on differences in traditions than ethnicity, generally)
    vast majority of byzantine catholics dont celebrate christmas on 6th-7th january by g. calendar, but on 24th-25th december; and so do many orthodox – this decision is up to every local church community
    for example vilija (never heard "velija") with 12 dishes. I never heard about that. many rusyns dont use wafers (and for them wafers arent communion-like, since eastern christians have communion in form of bread+wine, not wafers); but bread (wafers are influence from roman catholics)
    drinking wine wasnt really widespread in eastern slovakia until recently, when most people can afford a bottle of wine. i never heard about eating fish in eastern slovakia during christmas. maybe only in households that were influenced by western traditions?
    also mentioning midnight mass is quite misleading in story about rusyn christmas
    i know my critic is unsystematic, but right now i dont really have time (pre-exam period + judgment for tomorrow + test, goodluckhavefun  ;D )

    you can remind me later, if you want. like tomorrow.

    In 1950, my mother's church in Pennsylvania voted to move Christmas to 12/25.  I posted this story because I know that the reality of customs is often very different from the legends or what is found on the internet.  I trust the people here more than a website.  My family did some of the Christmas Eve foods, but nothing else.  There is no midnight mass at the local GC church either. 

    #405482

    Anonymous

    christians of byzantine tradition dont have midnight mass, except for communities influenced by latinization. like village where i live  :) thats one of reasons i travel to church in city.

    NATIVITY is the word i wanted to use  ;D . not theophany. i dont like the word christmas, it evokes in me all that commercial hype before 24th of december.

    yes olives, why not. if levant were peaceful and more prosperous it would be ideal place for me. somewhere in lebanon, not far from coast or from mountains  ;D

    but now i really must go study. 50 more pages to read in this evening.

    p. s. i really like this …, i think i will use it to divide paragraphs in posts  ;D

    #405483

    Anonymous

    Here is an interesting excerpt that is just rife with pre-christian images.

    Taken from:
    On the High Uplands
    Sagas, Songs, Tales and Legends of the Carpathians
    by Stanislaw Vincenz translated by H.C. Stevens
    Roy Publishers New York Original title of Polish publication is Na Wysokiej Poloninie

    Holy Supper and the Lord of Thunder
    pg 51
      On holy days, especially during the secret "Holy Supper" of Christmas Eve, food is presented to "Him". solely and exclusively to "Him", to the Lord of Thunder, with every mark of honor, on new, hitherto untouched plates, with new spoons, as though a guest from distant parts.

    pg 63
      When he is arrogant in his pride and wishes to destroy, when he wishes to burn human bones to ash, that very word, the word of reconciliation, which is born on the Holy Eve, has power against that emperor………
      Honor and respect are due to all; and when on the Holy Eve the farmer enters into brotherhood with all the world under the mighty heavens, let him speak to the mighty king, to the thunder emperor, as follows:
      Come to the Holy Eve, most worthy king. Be so kind, ruler, and enjoy our hospitality. Deeply I bow before your strength, thy people: the thunder people, the cloud people, the hail people; before thy knights, thy lords and thy forces. Above us is a greater, holier strength, which today is born and diffuses light.
      Emperor, be so gracious as to come, and praise him together with us.

    [From the entire text this more or less sounds like something done to appease the Lord of Thunder in hopes of being left alone by him in the coming year.]

    #405484

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    eeh the article mixes up various traditions from various ethnographic regions (region has a bigger influence on differences in traditions than ethnicity, generally)

    Is it possible that the author confused the practices of Polish Rusyns with those of the Slovak ones? Almost everything in that article describes how Poles and Ukrainians celebrate Christmas Eve. 12 meals, throwing walnuts, hay under the table cloth, no leaving the table, fish meals, poppy seeds for luck, blowing out the vigil candle from eldest to youngest, ect.

    #405485

    Anonymous

    Wow! My family didn't know much of our heritage but I guess velija passed down because we do the exact feast you described yearly!

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