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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Learning about 'RISDVO' (Ukrainian Christmas)

What an amazing day we all had at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village where we felt like we had stepped onto the Magic School Bus and were transported back into the 1920's.  We were the visitors to the homes of three different Ukrainian settlers who were preparing for Christmas, which they would be celebrating on January 7, according to the Julian calendar.
This museum is different in that the 'guides' take on the persona of a person who would have lived in that home at that time and so it is a 'living' museum.  The guide stays in character and invites the children to learn the cultural aspects of that time period, for those people, through hands on experiences.
They washed their hands in the basin with soap and water that was added to a pan full of snow.  The lady told us it was the softest water.
She told us that when you come to her house, there was no time to waste, and that everyone would need to work.  She taught us how to make kolach, a special braided bread, which, because it had no beginning nor end, represented the circle of life.
The students all got to make their own.

The kolach were put into pans and then left to rise on top of the wood burning stove. Once they had risen to twice their size (it was a yeast dough), then she was going to bake them.
There was a lot of very impressed young bakers in the group!
She then taught us how to make a fruit filled dumpling.
This dough was different and once the squares had been folded into triangles and pinched shut,
she boiled them.  They were quite sweet and tasty!
The children were brave enough to taste a little bit of kutia, which is the first dish served on Christmas Eve.  It is made of boiled wheat, with honey and poppyseed added.
When we had thanked our friend for all that she had taught us, we were surprised to find out that we were going to have a ride in a horse drawn wagon.
It made the song 'Jingle Bells' come alive!
After lunch, we walked over to St. Nicholas Parish and heard about the history of the building and the important role that it played in the celebration of Jesus' birth.
The ceiling was painted with the Holy Trinity.
At the next house we visited, the lady taught us how to make wax crosses.  The smell of beeswax was intoxicating as the children's warm hands molded the little crosses that were traditionally put above the windows and doors of the home.

In the third home, the lady of the house offered each child a mint, which would have been a special treat only given to the children during this special Christmas season.
She went on to explain about the diduch, the last sheaf of wheat cut during the harvest and how it took pride of place in the corner of the house, reminding the family of the members of the family who were no longer with them.

She gave us a small one to bring back to our classroom.
Did you know that there are special programs that run year round at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village and that dancing, harvest and the blessing of the water for the Feast of Jordan, are all part what can be seen.  Consider visiting sometime in the next year to learn more about our Alberta heritage.

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