Family enjoys a taste of Ukrainian Christmas

From the outside, the Slemko house looked festive, yet quiet, on Jan. 7, but once inside it could quickly be noted that tradition and Christmas filled the air.

Gisele Slemko

By Jasmine Franklin

From the outside, the Slemko house looked festive, yet quiet, on Jan. 7, but once inside it could quickly be noted that tradition and Christmas filled the air.

“We keep up our tradition,” said Ukrainian Doris Slemko, also known as Baba. “After dinner we get to socialize and just be with each other.”

Jan. 7 is the day of Orthodox Christmas and the Slemko family doesn’t miss a step in the traditional holiday. The table is beautifully decorated with Ukrainian china and space is made for 12 traditional meatless dishes. Among the meals was three-braided bread that signifies ever-lasting life.

Tied wheat is hung above and below the table to signify wealth and prosperity and the first foods to be eaten before the big meal is wheat, poppy seed and honey.

“Because she (Baba) had no daughters, I had to learn how to do all of this,” said daughter-in-law Louise Slemko. “It’s a great way to continue the heritage.”

But good eating isn’t the only traditional aspect for this family’s Ukrainian Christmas, filling the house were sounds of Doris and her late husband, Nick, singing songs from nearly 40 years ago. Her son, Ron, look astounded when talking about his mother’s old recordings.

Ron handed the Ponoka News a 1980 book titled, “Traditional Ukrainian Cookery” written by Savella Stechishin, the first book of it’s kind in Canada at the time, that encompasses various recipes as a way to preserve the Ukrainian traditional cooking.

With almost 500 pages, some marked and some written on, it’s clear this book has been well read and still holds its magic for the family today.