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12 Dishes: Traditional Ukrainian Food Served On Christmas Eve 


This news story was published on July 19, 2021.
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Food has always been connected to the most sacred of rites and accompanied people on happy and mournful occasions alike. Comfort food like cream of chicken or crunchy potato casserole served at funerals in different states of the USA is one example of this phenomenon. Similarly, each country has its own special meals tied to specific dates or events and consumed solemnly, in full awareness of the seriousness of the moment.

Ukraine has its own rich tradition of comfort and symbolic foods that were and continue to be cooked to mark births, weddings, funerals, Easter, and Christmas. Each big religious holiday has its set of foods that must be on the table, otherwise, the celebration loses its vital component. The etno cook site can help you learn to cook a variety of dishes that are served on various religious occasions, and now let’s look at the list of foods reserved for one of the grandest moments – Christmas Eve.

12 Dishes for Sviatvechir 

Sviatvechyr translates literally as Holy Evening, the time when the Holy Child was born and the bright star appeared in the darkening skies. It is celebrated on January 6th by Orthodox Christians. The families sit down to a festive meal when the first star appears in the sky. This date falls on the Lent period, so all dishes on the table should be vegetarian, or at least meatless and free from dairy products. 

So, the menu revolves around vegetable dishes and dishes made from dough. In different regions of Ukraine, the exact list of foods can change, but the concept remains the same. 12 dishes stand for 12 apostles who would later spread the worlds of Christ across the world. 

Positions one and two. The obligatory dishes are kutia and uzvar. Kutia is a wheat cereal made with the addition of honey, dried fruits, poppy seeds, and water or uzvar. Uzvar, in its turn, is a beverage made by boiling dried fruit like apples, apricots, pears, and plums (prunes). 

Position three. Vegetarian borshch is another important dish. It is made with mushroom stock and served with vushka – small dumplings stuffed with mushrooms. 

Position four. Potatoes are also a must. It can be served baked or boiled, dressed with caramelized onions or fresh crushed garlic and oil. 

Position five. Cabbage dishes go next. It can be cabbage sautéed with other vegetables or cabbage leaves stuffed with millet, potatoes, mushrooms, buckwheat, or other non-meaty fillings. 

Position six. The festive table is impossible without varenyky, stuffed dumplings. As you can guess, the fillings differ but are uniformly vegetarian for this occasion.

Mushrooms have a special place on the festive table because they can be gathered and dried in the fall and stored conveniently through the winter. Hence, position seven belongs to mushrooms fried with onions or mushroom soup.

Position eight. The Ukrainian feast cannot be imagined without pyrohy, the name for baked goods with different fillings. Anything vegetarian goes for this purpose. 

Position nine. It all depends on how you see vegetarian tradition – as allowing eating fish or excluding it as well. In Ukraine, the Lent rules allow including fish in the menu. So, one of the dishes will be fried fish or fish soup. A separate fish course is salted herring served with onions and vegetable oil. 

Position ten. Dried beans provide a source of protein in winter and early spring, so every household had generous supplies of this food. For the festive menu, beans are used as fillings for varenyky and pyrohy or are cooked separately and served with onions or added to salads. 

Position eleven. Boiled millet or cornmeal is served as a separate dish garnished with vegetable oil, fried onions, or mushrooms.

Position twelve. No feast is complete without a dessert. Christmas sweetmeats are varenyky or pyrohy made with dried fruit or poppy seeds. They are served with honey for additional sweetness.

During the feast, everyone should have at least a bite of every dish. After the meal, the food and plates are not taken away from the table. Instead, they are left overnight so that the spirits of past generations of the family can come and feast on the occasion. In such a way, old pre-Christian beliefs mix with religious teaching into a surprising blend that gives this holiday many meanings.

Yet, all these meanings primarily remind of family ties and love that conquers everything through time and space, making everyone return home for Christmas.

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