This exhibit is based on the stories that Andrew Gregorovich wrote from the words of his mother, Mary Pawluk Gregorovich, who was born in the family of Ukrainian immigrants in the Ukrainian village of Star, Alberta.
VELYKDEN Easter in Shandro, Alberta, Canada
On Good Friday there was a ceremony in the church carrying an ikon of Christ and the plashchynytsia (altar cloth) but I never went. On Saturday everyone cleaned and groomed themselves and went early to bed. At about 8 o'clock at night they would awaken, dress up and all go to the Ukrainian Orthodox church except mother who was left at home with a little baby.
New shoes and new clothes were a must on Easter. The boys made a bonfire, which warmed the chilly night air and enjoyed themselves by ringing the church bell. Early in the morning about 4 or 5 A.M., the paska Easter basket was blessed and everyone went home for breakfast. They would 'wash' their face with a krashanka (red Easter egg), which was to make them strong. If you didn't, the story went that your face would be red. After breakfast everyone went to sleep and in the afternoon they would awaken and get dressed.
In the afternoon they would go again to the church to meet friends and relatives. While the adults talked the girls played or danced haivky traditional dances while the boys competed for eggs. Whoever had the strongest egg in the contest won the eggs and since eggs were quite scarce in those days it was very important. The women would have a small kolach loaf or pysanky and would give them in memory of their dead fathers. There was then an afternoon service in the church and everyone would go home to supper to eat the blessed food from the Easter Basket.
On Easter Monday, wherever there were grown up girls, the boys would visit. The girl would kneel down and they would pour water on her head or neck (Shandro). It was said that if you didn't get wet, you would be dirty all year - even if you washed.
RIZDVO: Christmas in Shandro, Alberta, Canada, January 6 & 7
The St. Nicholas holiday was not celebrated by our family. On January 6th, Sviaty vechir, mother was up very early cleaning and preparing the Holy Supper (Sviata vechera). However, no one was supposed to eat anything all day, no breakfast, no lunch, until the first evening star appeared.
When the children spotted the first star of Christmas Eve, father would take food to the animals before the family would sit down to eat. When everyone sat down at the table, there was an axe under the table which everyone had to touch with their foot before eating. This was to make you as strong as steel (zalizo). After a prayer the Holy Supper began.
Christmas (rizdvo) was a big celebration for the children because there was candy, apples and other sweets. After supper everyone sang carols such as Dai Bozhy and Boh Predvichny for two hours during which time the carollers came.
Holy Supper was served to the warm glow of candlelight and coal oil lamps. The food consisted of 12 dishes representing the Apostles, and no meat was served. Such dishes were served as holubtsi (cabbage rolls), pshenytsia (wheat-kutia), perohy (dumplings) with kapusta (cabbage), kraplyky with prunes, bib (fava beans), peas, mushrooms, fish, stewed fruit, kolach bread, bread with poppy seed, kapusta (sauerkraut), potatoes, wine and whiskey. No borsch beet soup was served. [Borsch is the national soup of Ukraine-A.G.]
Sometimes there was a visitor. When mother's second cousin came he always brought a dinner in memory of his own father with a new setting of cutlery every year. After dinner and the carols, everyone would go to bed. We would sleep a few hours and then we would awaken and go to church through the dark night at about 4 or 5 A.M. That day (Rizdvo/Christmas) we would eat all the leftovers from the Holy Supper. Visitors would come the next two days, there was carolling and it was such a happy occasion. When the leftovers were finished, we would have borsch beet soup, holubtsi, studinets and kapusta.
MALANKA: Ukrainian New Year's Eve, January 13
Malanka was a big occasion. Young men would go to homes with a group of musicians. One of them would dress up as an animal to frighten the young children. Mostly they visited those homes where there was a young girl. They would dance with her and the parents would give them money. Some time later there was a big dance to which all of the girls were invited.
YORDAN: Jordan Day
The church at Shandro was located near a river which allowed us to observe this traditional church holiday. Everyone walked to the river covered with ice which was blessed by the priest. Everyone then took water from the river home to their house. They would shout, Gerallyza! It was very cold.
About half of the marriages were arranged. The young man would send two starosts, older men, to discuss the wedding proposal with the girl's parents. The potential groom would stay outside until he was called in. The starosts asked the parents for the hand of the girl who stayed shyly in the background. If the mother and father agreed, they would then ask the daughter. But how could she, poor thing, at this point say no? Then the young man would come in and the starosty would offer everyone a drink of whiskey or vodka. Then they would invite the parents to visit his home to discuss the date of the wedding. One important question was the matter of how much land was in the daughter's dowry. The engagement was always exactly six weeks. In Canada, the girl always had to have a cow in her dowry. Before the starosts left, the future bride presented them with rushniks she had embroidered in appreciation of their service.
Weddings usually started on a Friday night when she started to prepare the bridal vinok, or wreath (equivalent to a veil), out of green periwinkle, flowers and ribbons. On Saturday afternoon, the zavadyny takes place, a reception held at the two separate homes of the couple where there was a banquet, dancing, drinking and singing of wedding songs. The bride to be sits on a pillow with the bridesmaids on either side. In greeting the guests she would always put a handkerchief on her hand when she shook hands. This party lasted until midnight.
On Sunday morning she dresses, and cries and sits behind the family dining table. Father and mother put a vinok on her head and bless her with kolach bread and salt. Then they send her off to Church where everyone goes except the two sets of parents. They work to prepare the wedding banquet. The two wedding parties of the bride and the groom leave their homes and walked to church in Ukraine. In Canada they rode in horse and buggies and later in cars. After the wedding ceremony at the church they again separate to go their own ways to dance, and later he comes to get her.
Her brother or a cousin ceremoniously puts a kerchief on the bride's head (pokryvaye) and as a married woman she is always supposed to wear a kerchief from that time. Everying of the bride is then taken in a wagon to the new home of the couple.
On Monday, the fourth day of the wedding, everyone goes to the groom's house in order to participate in the darovanya and perepiy (toast). Gifts given by the women usually were cloth, clothing and embroidery while the men gave money. At some point the bachelors of the village would confront the groom who would have to pay them off in liquor.
Christenings had some unusual customs, one of which was that the lights had to be on every night in the house until the baptism (khrystyna). Usually this was two or a few days after birth. In Shandro it was believed that if there was no light, the Devil might come and exchange the baby for another. During the christening ceremony a knife was kept beside the baby to drive evil spirits away. (Perhaps the symbolic cross of blade and handle served as a Christian talisman).
In Ukraine, the village square near the korshma (tavern) was called toloka. Here a band of tsymbaly and violins played on Sunday afternoons. The barefoot girls lined up on one side and the boys on the other. The boys shouted the name of the girl they wanted to dance with. They didn't ask.