The traditional Christmas Eve Feast at Taste of Ukraine was fabulous! The restaurant's decor recreates a Ukrainian village using murals, thatch, wattle, trees full of lights like innumerable stars, traditional embroidered clothing hung on clotheslines and other colourful touches. There was also a large, beautifully decorated Christmas tree. A braided loaf of bread (kolach) with a white candle in it sat at the centre of each table on top of a handful of straw (representing the Christ child in the manger).
On Christmas Eve day, Ukrainian Catholics fast to commemorate the hardships suffered by the pregnant Virgin Mary en route to Bethlehem. Then in the evening, the fast is broken by the Holy Supper of 12 meatless and dairy-free dishes, symbolizing the 12 Apostles. Each dish comes either from the field, the garden, the orchard or the sea and symbolizes that all creation welcomes the Christ child.
The first thing eaten is a small dish of kutya -- cooked whole wheat sweetened with honey and poppy seeds. It symbolizes fertility and family. (Delicious!)
Next was a lovely bowl of beet borsch containing an ushka (a perogy stuffed with garlic and mushrooms). Sliced kolach (braided bread) was served with garlic spread.
The third course was a plate of cold appetizers: pickled herring, beet vinaigrette, and cod/salmon studynetz (headcheese). I'm not a big fish eater but I tried everything.
The fourth course was the hot entree: a large plate of fried sole, varenyky (perogies) stuffed with potato and onion (yum!), holubtsi (cabbage rolls), mashed beans with garlic, baked sauerkraut and garlic mushrooms to die for! During this course, a small group of young men and women in traditional costumes sang Christmas carols in Ukrainian.
Finally, a delicious dessert plate: uzvar (stewed apricots and prunes), pampushky (jam donuts), makivnyk (poppy seed roll) and khrustyky (pastry strips with icing sugar). I don't believe the dessert items are counted as part of the 12 traditional dishes, since they contain dairy products. But still, a nice conclusion to the meal!
Oh, we had a fabulous time -- good food and good company! It took an unrushed couple of hours to eat all the courses and everyone went home stuffed. My Rare One and I just loved it!
[Photos are from Taste of Ukraine's website]