January 18, 2018

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Epiphany

January 18, 2018

    In the Ukrainian Holiday Calendar, January 18 marks the so-called 2nd Holy Supper, which precedes the holiday of Jordan, or Epiphany.  

 

    This day is the 3rd and last time throughout the year, when Ukrainians serve Kutia (the 1st being on Christmas Eve, and the 2nd – on St.Vasyl’s day, also known as the Old Calendar New Year).

    On this day people were supposed to eat nothing, but the ‘hungry’ holy supper. Only the next day, after the church service, once water has been blessed, everyone was expected to fast.  The Jordan Holy Supper was believed to be ‘hungry’ or ‘poor’ because there were fewer dishes presented at the table (compared to the Christmas Eve Supper). One would usually serve Kutia, Uzvar (dried fruit juice) and varenyky, most commonly made with cabbage filling.

 

    Kutia was always considered a sacred element of the Christmas holidays, thus always placed on the most prominent spot in the house. It was often complimented with Uzvar, bread and a pinch of salt. All these items had symbolic meaning as well. Before sitting down at the table it was customary for the eldest man in the house to walk around their property, blessing it with holy water and drawing symbolic chalk crosses beside windows and doors, as a way to lure out all evil spirits.

     Families would sit down at the dinner table with the first evening star. Having said a prayer, the head of the family would give everyone 3 spoonfuls of Kutia. And so began and ended the Holy Supper.

 

    There are various fascinating traditions and rituals connected with this holiday, one of them being the "summoning of Frost". In the olden days people believed the morning of Epiphany to be the coldest day iin the year. Before sitting down for dinner, the man of the house would come up to an open window with a spoonful of Kutia and say ‘Come have some Kutia with us, frost!’. After a while he would shout once again ‘Not coming, are you? Well then don’t come to feast on our wheat, rye or any other crops! Don’t bring any cold to us or our horses, our cattle or our poultry!’

 

    This ritual was always a highlight for all the kids, who’d be spellbound by this magical moment.

 

    After dinner, people would start another ritual  - ‘the banishment’ of Kutia. They’d take the dinnerware used to make Kutia and other festive dishes outside and recite ceremonial verses, telling Kutia, Uzvar and Didukh to leave the household till the following year. On this eve (or the morning after) it was customary to burn down your didukh.

 

   This was the last day to sing carols and gaze upon the stars, trying to find out what the future had in store.

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