5 Things You Didn’t Know about Orthodox Christmas

5 Things You Didn’t Know about Orthodox Christmas


A recent article from CBC/Radio-Canada, titled “5 Things You Didn’t Know about Orthodox Christmas,” highlighted the Christmas traditions of a Ukrainian Orthodox Christian family in Canada. The article’s list of five traditions provides a succinct overview of some of Orthodoxy’s most popular ecclesial and cultural practices for Christmastide.

The article observes:

For many people, Christmas is over.

But that’s not the case for the Drozdovskyy family. They are Ukrainian-Canadian and are celebrating Orthodox Christmas on January 6 and 7.

“It’s very important for Ukrainian families, for sure. I remember when I was small and lived in the Soviet Union, it was a different situation. We can’t celebrate like we celebrate now,” Liudmyla Drozdovskyy said.

The holiday kicks off on January 6 with a holy meal. Here are a few more Drozdovskyy’s traditions they share with other Orthodox people:

The 40-day Nativity Fast. The Drozdovskyy family fasts from meat and dairy for 40 days before Orthodox Christmas. They break their fast on January 7. Liudmyla fasts from all food and drink, except for water on January 6 until dinner time.

The holy meal is vegetarian. It consists of 12 meat-free dishes, including perogies, cabbage rolls, beets, borscht, and potatoes. The 12 dishes represent Jesus’s twelve apostles.

White tablecloth on the holy dinner table. The table is set with an extra place for the spirits of family members that have passed on.

Under the table cloth, the Drozdovskyy’s place three things: A bunch of wheat to signify a rich harvest, garlic to ward off evil spirits, and a bit of sugar as a wish for a sweet life.

The family gives away treats, including apples, cookies, candies, and chocolate to neighbours after dinner on Orthodox Christmas Eve.

How do you celebrate Christmas in your region of the world?

About author

Seraphim Danckaert

Seraphim Danckaert is Director of Mission Advancement at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary. He holds an M.Div. from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and is a Ph.D. candidate in theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.