This Christmas season, the Rev. Mikhail Tikhonov of the Christian Church of Hope in Emma says he’s been impressed by the 50 Ukrainian refugee households who’ve joined his congregation in the course of the previous yr after fleeing the conflict.
“The essential that means of Christmas is that Christ got here to convey hope for humanity,” he tells Xpress. “So that’s what we’re grounded on this yr.”
Tikhonov estimates that 70% of the church’s 800 parishioners are Ukrainian or of Ukrainian heritage, although the congregation additionally contains different Slavic nationalities equivalent to Russians, Belarusians and Moldovans. General, he says, the Pentecostal church’s Christmas providers are similar to these of different evangelical congregations, particularly the Baptist and Assemblies of God denominations. What he does contemplate completely different, nonetheless, is the prominence of two traditions: caroling and feasting.
“Slavic folks, whether or not it’s Thanksgiving, Easter or Christmas, they put together massive dinners,” Tikhonov says. “There isn’t any tv on: We simply share life. We chortle, we cry, we sing carols collectively. It’s like what America was 30, 40, 50 years previous.”
A Holy Supper feast additionally figures prominently within the practices of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Regionally, that custom is represented by the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke Ukrainian Catholic Mission, led by the Rev. Kevin Bezner at St. Barnabas Catholic Church in Arden. Born a Roman Catholic, Bezner has a particular appreciation for these traditions as a result of they join him to his personal Ukrainian heritage, which he wasn’t even conscious of till after he transformed in 2007.
“Beneath church legislation, I ought to have been Ukrainian Catholic all alongside,” he says.
Songs of pleasure
In accordance with the Web Encyclopedia of Ukraine, caroling is a convention that reaches again to pre-Christian instances. There are two sorts of carols: koliadky, sung at Christmas, and shchedrivky, which have fun the brand new yr. The well-known “Carol of the Bells” is, in reality, Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych’s adaptation of “Shchedryk,” a standard Ukrainian New 12 months’s music.
Carols are a central a part of the Christmas celebrations on the Christian Church of Hope, whether or not they’re being sung in church by one of many many choirs or by parishioners going home to accommodate.
“On Christmas Day at 5 o’clock within the night, they go carol on the houses of senior residents in our church who dwell by themselves,” Tikhonov explains. It’s usually a bunch of youthful folks, together with members of the teenager and younger grownup choirs. “They take the accordion and guitar, they put on the Christmas hats, they usually simply go stroll the condominium advanced and sing carols.”
Traditional carols additionally characteristic within the church’s Christmas packages. They embrace the Ukrainian music “Nebo i Zemlia” (which interprets as “Heaven and Earth”) in addition to English carols equivalent to “Oh Come, All Ye Trustworthy.”
Vasiliy Draka, a member of the Slavic Revival Fellowship Church off New Leicester Freeway, additionally sees the caroling custom as essentially the most notable distinction between the vacation providers at these church buildings and people at different evangelical homes of worship. When he was a youth chief within the early 2000s, Draka recollects, he would compile an inventory of oldsters who wished carolers to return to their home.
And although caroling has historical roots in Ukraine, the liberty to sing Christmas songs has a newer that means for some older parishioners of each the Christian Church of Hope and the Slavic Revival Fellowship who skilled non secular oppression throughout Soviet domination. In these days, adults may have jobs taken away and kids may obtain dangerous grades merely due to their beliefs, says Draka.
Tikhonov tells the same story. “We now have a pair older males who had been persecuted for his or her non secular beliefs. They received companies snatched from them, homes raided. At all times arrested and fined for gathering. Individuals who haven’t skilled the opposite facet don’t know what we now have right here, the non secular freedom to collect, worship, pray and search God,” he factors out, including, “It’s an enormous blessing.”
However simply as essential because the carols, stresses Tikhonov, are the feasts. Throughout the vacation season, a number of households will come collectively for giant dinners that usually last as long as 5 hours. These gatherings could have particular significance for the congregation’s refugee households, a lot of whom are experiencing their first Christmas away from dwelling, notes Tikhonov.
“A whole lot of households are financially struggling,” he notes, including that he’s hoping to search out sponsors each inside and past his congregation to assist these folks have an considerable and joyful Christmas by offering items for kids. Potential sponsors can electronic mail the church at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holy quick, holy feast
In accordance with the School of the Holy Cross’ Catholics and Cultures initiative, the Catholic Church truly consists of 24 separate denominations. The Roman Catholic Church represents 98% of all Catholic believers, however there are additionally 23 completely different Jap Catholic church buildings, together with the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
“For individuals who are accustomed to the Greek Orthodox Church or the Russian Orthodox Church, we’re similar to each,” says Bezner. “To study our church and who we’re and what we’re about, it’s the liturgy that’s most essential.”
“Liturgy opens us as much as the graces God gives,” parishioner Mary Ann (who requested that solely her first title and that of her husband, Dave, be used) instructed Xpress through electronic mail. “We really feel His presence and it makes us really feel nearer to Him.”
Bezner performs the Divine Liturgy, the celebration of the Eucharist referred to as Mass within the West, at St. Barnabas each Sunday. Normally, he recites the fifth century liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The marginally longer fourth century liturgy of St. Basil is used on particular days equivalent to Nativity Eve — what Ukrainian Catholics name Christmas Eve.
The celebration of the Nativity, nonetheless, gears up a lot earlier. It begins with the quick of St. Philip that begins on Nov. 15. Bezner describes it as much less intense than the Lenten quick, throughout which most contributors keep away from meat and dairy merchandise, and generally different meals, for 40 days main as much as Easter.
The fasting in the course of the run-up to Nativity Eve makes the Holy Supper notably particular. “It’s a night of bounty and hope: The Christ youngster is about to be born. So there’s nice celebration,” says Bezner.
The standard Ukrainian Catholic Holy Supper requires 12 meatless dishes, most of which carry symbolic that means. The centerpiece is koloch, or Ukrainian Christmas bread. Barely candy, it’s braided and normally formed right into a circle, which Bezner says represents eternity. A candle sits in the midst of the circle to finish the symbolism.
Luke Ukrainian Mission parishioner Ted Kutzlo, who was baptized at Our Woman of Perpetual Assist in Wheeling, W.Va., has fond childhood recollections of those Holy Suppers. “The desk was set with hay scattered on it and delivered to the desk by the youngest youngsters, representing the manger the place Christ was born,” he remembers. Dishes included borscht, sauerkraut, pirohi (extra usually identified by their Polish title, pierogi), salads and fish dishes.
“These are recipes that we normally solely have on Christmas Eve,” Mary Ann explains. She grew up celebrating the Polish Wigilia, or vigil, supper, which is analogous to the Holy Supper Dave skilled as a toddler.
After the meal, the top of the family historically leads the household in prayers and carols. Then the youngest youngsters obtain items earlier than bedtime, whereas older youngsters and adults attend the night service referred to as vespers, adopted by carol singing after which the Divine Liturgy at midnight. Generally, says Bezner, the Nativity Eve liturgy can start within the late afternoon and proceed effectively into the early morning hours of Nativity (Christmas) itself.
Solely on Nativity does meat as soon as once more grace the desk. Kutzlo’s recollections of the festive meal embrace turkey and kielbasa, in addition to rolls made with honey and poppy seeds.
Previous and current
Ukrainian Catholics have instructed Bezner about different practices related to the Holy Supper. They embrace giving livestock or pets additional treats to commemorate the animals in Bethlehem that witnessed the start of Christ, inserting garlic on the corners of the desk to chase away evil spirits, and leaving an empty seat in honor of those that have died and for any sudden friends.
“Some could do roughly, relying on how conventional they’re,” he notes. “I’ve spoken to some Ukrainians who don’t do any of this any longer on account of Russian oppression” beneath the Soviet Union.
Whereas Dave, Mary Ann and the Kutzlos all have Slavic backgrounds, Bezner factors out that his congregation additionally contains Asian and Latino parishioners. He’s led the mission since its founding in Canton in October 2019. It relocated to the extra central location of St. Barnabas the next yr.
St. Barnabas’ midnight Christmas Mass will imply that Bezner should transfer the Nativity Eve Divine Liturgy elsewhere, at 3 p.m. Christmas Day and that he and his parishioners will have fun the Nativity of their dwelling sanctuary with cries of “Khrystos Razhdajetsia! Slavite Yoho!” (“Christ is risen! Glorify Him!”)
Though the Christian Church of Hope and the Evangelist Luke Mission characterize completely different non secular denominations, they’re united of their fervent prayers for peace in Ukraine. And on the private stage, says Tikhonov, “There’s nothing else on the market that may convey you peace aside from the Phrase of God. We’re celebrating hope — that Christ got here to save lots of folks.”