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Christmas Eve

The feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ is ranked among the greatest feasts of our Church Year. Therefore, holy Church, mindful of the majesty and significance of this feast, encourages the faithful to prepare by prayer and fasting for this encounter with our Saviour. The Pylypiwka (Philip’s Fast), the pre-festal services, and the celebrations on the Eve of the Nativity serve this purpose.

This festal preparation reaches its peak on the Eve of the Nativity. It is a day of watching, prayer and fasting. The guest from heaven is about to arrive, therefore, it is necessary to prepare for his coming worthily. The Holy Eve of the Nativity has not only its own church significant services; it is also rich in symbolic rites and customs, some of which go back to pre- Christian times.

The celebration of the Eve of the Nativity of our Lord dates from the first centuries of Christianity. As early as the fourth century, there was a church rule which specified how the Eve was to be celebrated

The eve of Christmas brings the Forty Days Christmas fast to a close. A strict fast is prescribed for this entire day. The whole family feels that on that day a very important heavenly guest will arrive in the evening, and therefore, a deeply festal and spiritual mood pervades the home. Our ancestors highly respected and zealously observed the fast of this day until the appearance of the evening star. From earliest times, besides fasting, our ancestors prepared themselves for the feast of the Nativity of our Lord with confession and Holy Communion.

On this evening the whole family should be together, so that within a year remembers the strength of family ties. This supper should bring a family together, because each family is a small church, which together is preparing for the coming of Saviour. Old people say that the person who will hold Christmas Eve outside the family the whole year will walking the world and will feel uncomfortable and lonely. After the Last Supper is a joint dinner of all family, a symbol of home. It is also important in this day forgive all the injustices that were inflicted on you to not take insults and bad mood with you into next year.

The main duty of the members of each family on Holy Eve (Christmas Eve) is to prepare themselves, their house and household for the feast of the Nativity of the Lord. Housewife spends most of her time in preparing Holy Supper. This Supper, though meatless, is rich, for it includes as many as twelve traditional courses. Hence, its name "bahata kutya” (bahata — rich; kutya — boiled wheat mixed with honey). Meals should be a fasting because Christmas Eve falls on the last day of Philip’s Fast. This means that food may not contain any animal’s fat and protein. The same applies to alcohol. Sometimes you can drink a glass of wine, but no more and nothing else.

Why are twelve courses served at the Holy Supper? We find the answer to this question in the work of Professor S. Kylymnyk. "On the basis of profound research,” he says, "it may be said that twelve courses are served at Holy Eve Supper because throughout the course of the year the moon circles the earth twelve times. Thus, each course represents a single month. Secondly, the "Bahata Kutya” consists of every kind of vegetable and fruit that is on the household.

Among the meals of Holy Supper, "kutya” or "kolyvo” is the most important. This is boiled wheat with honey. There are those who are of the opinion that "kutya” is a remnant of the ancient love banquets (agapes), which were prepared on the day of the death of a Martyr or deceased beloved. Wheat, as a seed, revives each year; hence, it is the symbol of eternity, and honey is the symbol of the eternal happiness of the Saints in heaven.

As soon as the evening star appears in the sky, the head of the house lights a candle on the table. The whole family, dressed in festive attire, prays together and then sits down to the Holy Supper. The father then extends good wishes to the entire family. During the Holy Supper people tried not to leave the table and talking quietly. During the Holy Supper, the souls of the departed of the family are remembered, and a separate dish with ‘‘kutya’’ is set for them on the table or window sill, for it is believed that the departed souls also share in the Holy Supper. After supper, the whole family greets the Nativity of our Lord by singing carols and exchanging gifts.

source: Julian J. Katrij, OSBM "A Bizantine Rite, Liturgical Year"

Category: Ask the priest | Added by: abat (2012-01-03)
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