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Jan 2, 2008 05:43 AM

Traditional Ukrainian Christmas

Please help! We're going to a traditional Ukrainian Christmas this week-end and I have offered to bring dessert. The host said it can be anything, but they go out of their way to recreate the family celebration he grew up with. Any suggestions?

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  1. There are some great Ukrainian cookies... rugelach (spelling?) or the Kristies (bowties) (spelling) that may be great. If you google Ukrainian recipes I am sure you will find plenty more ideas.

    1. There's also something called Kutia (pronounced kootch-ya). It's cooked wheat berries with honey, canned poppy seed, and chopped walnuts added. It's a very typical Christmas eve dish. I'm not sure if it's a dessert or not, but I like to eat it for dessert b/c it's sweet and feels somewhat healthy. You'll find a few recipes if you google it. Some add raisins or dried apricots, but my mother-in-law, who is Ukrainian, keeps it simple with just the ingredients I mentioned above.

      2 Replies
      1. re: chucktownlady

        I suspect that traditional Ukrainian dishes for Christmas eve and Christmas day are quite different. Orthodox and eastern rite Catholics would have been observing the Advent fast up to Christmas eve, which means no meat and little to no dairy (a little 'lent'). Christmas day is the first of the 12 feast days leading up to Theophany, Jan 6. The feast dishes pull out all the stops when it comes to foods that weren't eaten during the fast.

        The wheat berry sweet sounds like a 'fasting' sweet, since it does not contain dairy.

        The chief sweet dish at Pascha (Easter) is a type of cheese cake (called pascha itself), using all the cheese and eggs accumulated during Lent. There may something similar at Christmas time. Without knowing anything more about Ukrainian food, I'd guess that a cheese cake (NY style or what ever you know best) would be appropriate.


        1. re: chucktownlady

          Another potential complicating factor is the calendar. The more traditional Orthodox calendar is the Julian one, which is offset from ours by 13 days. In Russia they are still in the Advent fast period, and early next week you will see news reports about Christmas celebrations there. But many Orthodox (including most Greeks) celebrate Christmas by the Gregorian calendar (the common one in the west), so they are now in the middle of those 12 days of Christmas.


        2. I asked my Baba about this and being a older Ukrainian lady, she says the traditional desert is Wheat, sugar and poppy seeds! You can get the wheat at grocery stores, the would sell it in a package, and you boil it until it's thick; and add sugar and poppy seed! It doesn't sound that delicious, but it is VERY traditional. Perhaps you can add something to yum it up? Anyway, you asked... :)

          4 Replies
          1. re: CoolKitty

            The bulk section of health food or large grocery may have whole wheat grain (berries).


            1. re: paulj

              Good answer! I will have to check that out!!

            2. re: CoolKitty

              Looking at a Syrian cookbook (from Syrian/Lebanese immigrants), I found a sweet whole wheat dish like this, that is traditionally served after a requiem liturgy (mass), and at the first anniversary after the death. The boiled wheat represents the resurrection (seed producing a new plant).

              The wheat is soaked overnight, and cooked for 4 hrs. Then drained and mixed with walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and raisins. The smooth mound is decorated with powdered sugar, raisins, and almonds.


              1. re: paulj

                According to this recipe
                an Italian version of wheat berries, Cuccia - with ricotta and honey - is traditionally served on St Lucia day, Dec 13.

            3. If you have been invited to Christmas Eve dinner, on January 6th, the traditional meal will consist of 12 courses, all meatless. The table will be decorated with a Kolach (Ukrainian Christmas Bread) which usually holds the candle. The first course is Kutia and it is exactly like chucktownlady described. Then, traditionally, the courses will be: borsch (beet soup) served with ushka (tiny dumplings stuffed with dried mushrooms and onions, shaped sort of like an ear- ushka means ears), varenyky (potato and sauerkraut), pickled fish, baked fish, pickled mushrooms, holobchi (stuffed cabbage made with rice or buckwheat or both) and served with a mushroom gravy, fruit compote. There could be variations depending on what part of Ukraine the family comes from and they may include dishes of fried sauerkraut, or lentils, or pickled beets, etc. The meal ends with a variety of baked desserts, to name a few: pampushky with poppy seeds or prune jelly (these are like doughnuts), khristyky (bowties), zavyvanyts (like a strudel with fillings of either poppy seed, prune or almond paste), medivnyk (honeycake). If you are invited to Christmas Day January 7th, then you could be eating any of the above and any other meat dish the host makes. As you can see, poppy seeds are mentioned several times. It is very popular among Ukrainians. An easy dessert to make would be a poppy seed cake. The recipe can usually be found on a can of poppy seed filling, located in the baking goods aisle. I have a can right in front of me and they have a site you can visit: I hope this helped a little. Now I'm going to check on my borsch and to all the Ukrainians out there, "Merry Christmas!"