Monday, 16 September 2013

Ukrainian Christmas

Most people who have met me, or talked to me, or given me any reason at all to mention it know that I’m from a Ukrainian/Mennonite-Canadian family. I’m sort of obsessed with history and genealogy, yet between deceased grandparents and dementia it’s almost impossible for me to get anywhere with the resources I have to hand. So I cling pretty fiercely to the bits of family memory I can salvage and I’m proud of my heritage.

My dad as a baby, outside their prairie shack somewhere in Manitoba
My family isn’t big on many Ukrainian traditions. We don’t speak Ukrainian, we weren’t enrolled in any Ukrainian activities (like Ukrainian dancing), and we all grew up on Vancouver Island, where there isn’t a large Ukrainian community. My mum and I keep up a few traditions that she sort of remembers, but as her family had lost touch with the Orthodox faith even these are sort of secularised. Not that it makes much difference to us, because we mostly center our family traditions around yummy food!

Or in this case, Gramma centers her Christmas tree amongst some Ukrainian Easter eggs...
So, as we had spent English Christmas in Victoria, we convinced my parents to postpone (relatively, as my 23-year-old baby brother still needed an English Christmas, apparently) Christmas until Ukrainian Christmastime (which falls on January 7th). Then we had to change the date again, since John needed to be back at University before then, so on January 5th we celebrated our English-Ukrainian-Christmas. This was David’s first time to celebrate Christmas with my family, so I was really excited.

decorating the tree a couple of weeks beforehand -- somehow John always ends up getting garland/beads/ribbon wrapped around him as a trial run. I wonder who's responsible for that...
We like to do all our present opening in one go, stockings first, then tree presents, so that’s the way it rolled. I always love opening the stockings, because “Sandy-Claus” usually fills them with some choice picks of chocolate, a few little bits & bobs, and then a new piece of jewellery for me. Everything a girl could desire! This year was no different. And then the under-the-tree presents...wow. My parents had gone all out, which was really unexpected since they’d helped with the cost of our flight home. My brother, who hands out the presents, is always guided to ensure that we all get our ‘big’ present last, which this year was just as well as it was pretty hard to get me to focus on anything once I unwrapped a brand new Kindle. I love to read, but with all the travel and juggling of a baby it’s been so hard to get through paper books (and they’re so heavy to pack). The Kindle was an ideal solution, and my book-reading has almost returned to normal now that I can access e-books.

Walter amazed everyone by interacting with his presents, and we took videos in which you can see my brother & parents intently focused on Walter and his gift opening, while David and I sit in the background playing with our new toys (David got a fancy electric razor) and basically passing off the parenting responsibility... Walter’s big present from my parents was a Baby Einstein Jumperoo. In order to ensure he got a lot of use out of it he’d been given it when we arrived in December, so by Christmastime he was an expert at jumping. It was a great gift for our mobile little guy.

Walter gets some help with present opening from Uncle Johnny
After presents and clean-up my mum made us a delicious breakfast of German pancakes (like crepes), peach & whipped cream filling, and bacon. Then we relaxed and helped cook the big Christmas dinner, which is a mix of Canadian foods (like turkey) and Ukrainian food (like the perogies mum & I made from scratch). My Gramma and some family friends came over to join us and it was a really lovely evening. It was the first time I’d been home for the holidays since 2008 and it was wonderful. Even with all the stress of travel and not knowing where we were going to be living come spring, we are thankful that we had the opportunity to spend Walter’s first Christmases with our families back home.

We also had snow! So that was nice and Christmassy, although it delayed our trip back to Victoria by a couple of days since the roads weren't in good driving condition. Made up for it with lovely woodland walks.

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