Regina woman embraces heritage at Ukrainian Christmas

Barbara Dedi prepares dishes to celebrate her heritage with friends of a variety of cultures

Reported by Adriana Christianson

It is an impressive list, particularly because Dedi didn’t grow up with traditional Ukrainian food.

“My dad was from Ukraine and his ancestors were from Ukraine but when they first came to Canada it was something that they didn’t want to talk about.

“They didn’t like being Ukrainian because there was a lot of discrimination against Ukrainian people at that time,” Dedi explained.

“So I didn’t learn a lot of the traditional cooking from my dad’s side of the family but when I got married it was my mother-in-law that actually taught me to cook it.”

Even though her immediate family didn’t practice a lot of Ukrainian traditions when she was young, she does remember her Baba trying to teach her some. From then on she was determined to learn all she could about Ukrainian culture and to embrace knowledge and understanding of other cultures from around the world. Her kids grew up immersed in Ukrainian cultural traditions including dance and language classes.

This year, Dedi’s daughter is carrying on the family tradition of sharing with different cultures by making Ukrainian Christmas feast in Guatemala, just like she did when she spent four years in Kuwait.

This Christmas will be particularly significant for their family as they mark the passing of her ex-husband with a small table set in his honor as part of the tradition to set an extra place for those who have passed on. Other traditional symbols are placed around the house.

“The hay by the window is for good luck and it’s also to represent the animals – the animals on the farm would always get part of the meal,” she explained.  “Also we put a candle in the window to welcome the homeless. At the front door when you come in there is salt to keep illnesses away and also garlic.”

Traditional bread called kolach sits on every table, but it cannot be eaten on Christmas Eve because it a symbol of Christ.

Some of the other traditions like throwing the wheat mixture on the ceiling and leaving all the leftovers out all night have lapsed a bit because they aren’t very practical, but Dedi does leave some dishes out all night. But they do maintain the tradition of making sure every guest tastes every single dish – even those that aren’t too popular.
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