On Christmas Eve in every house people lit candles, fireplaces, and put wood pre-coated in honey and sprinkled with bread grains into the fireplace. It was customary to try and maintain he fire lit until the very end of Christmas festivities – ‘Old’ New Year (January 14th). Candles were believed to attract warmth and prosperity. They were also lit to honor deceased relatives – so they helped you in the new year.
Burning candles are a testimony of faith, the affiliation of humans to the divine light. Candles accompany people throughout life - from baptism till death. This is a symbol of an individual’s willingness to meet with God.
Once all the dishes are made, the fire lit and the first star up in the sky, families gather at the table. On Christmas Eve inviting people over was not customary. It was believed that all the good or bad luck one gets all year is brought upon by any Christmas guests. That is why, if people were in fact invited to share Christmas supper, those were only the closest, best friends and family who only wished the very best to the hosts.
On Christmas, often you’d find a pie with a surprise inside – a penny, raisin, nut or pea. The host would divide it amongst everyone at the table and whoever got the piece with the surprise filling was believed to get extra lucky in the new year.
Other important elements on the Christmas table were:
- salt. Without it one cannot feel the full taste of dishes. The same way as peoplecan’t really do good without being in harmony with God. It was believed that salt brought out the true essence of people.
- garlic. It was placed on each corner of the table, under the tablecloth to draw away evil spirits. It was the symbol of purification from sin, which poison human lives, a symbol of fertility and health.
On Christmas Eve, when clock strikes midnight, it was customary to open all doors to lure out any evil spirits.
Once it was was just past midnight, the head of the family would open a window to let in Christmas, and the happiness, luck, prosperity that came with it.