Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy Sviata Vechera!

As someone in seminary studying multi-religious education, I enjoy learning about new holidays. Here is one that I have learned about this year: Sviata Vechera.

January 6th is a traditional Ukrainian Orthodox holiday called Sviata Vechera. While the holiday in modern times is now held on December 24th (Christmas eve), many Ukrainians hold to the old calendar which would place the holiday today, on January 6th. Like most Christian rituals, it has borrowed heavily from pagan sources for inspiration and is quite easily turned back into a pagan ritual if you so desire. It is quite beautiful.

The Holy Supper is a ritual meal, and like many such meals in many traditions, most devout Ukrainains fast before this feast as a part of their religious devotion. With this holiday, the feast isn't served until the first star of night is observed (many industrious Ukrainians send the kids outside to play as they prepare the space and the food for the feast to do this task). Before the star is observed, it is tradition for agricultural folk to make sure all the livestock and animals were feasting themselves and the table is decked out with the finest linens and table runners (made for this specific feast) and candles and greenery. There is a centerpiece loaf of bread that is a triad of round braided loaves called the kolach, which is flanked by greenery and two candles. Hay is scattered under the table (to symbolize the humbleness of Christ's birth), although more than one witch (with a Ukrainian background) I know have re-appropriated the symbolism of the entire meal to more witchy meanings. (Warning: link has delightfully funny obscenities and is not safe for work).

The meal itself is a ritual meal: 12 dishes over 4 courses. There is call and response chanting during the meal. Afterwards, the entire meal is left out overnight for the ancestors to feast upon it. (That part is my witchy favorite).

Does your tradition partake in a ritual meal?

1 comment:

  1. Sviata Vechera is the Christmas Eve (as you mentioned), and the holiday extends until January 19th (Epiphany). Being a traditional Ukrainian Pagan family (?!), we try to incorporate the best of both worlds - mead and keilbassa go together better than you'd think. LOL

    Great post. Enjoyed the read. :)


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