Fort McMurray’s Ukrainian community keeps Christmas customs alive during COVID-19

Christmas for Ukrainians normally involves a capacity of family and friends consuming, singing, and laughing together. However, Fort McMurray’s Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox population kept their traditions alive as COVID-19 shutdowns stopped large events this year.

Thursday was Christmas on the Julian Calendar, which is used by Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox churches. On Christmas Eve Wednesday, friends and families would normally fulfill for Sviata Vecherya (implying “Holy Dinner”), a 12-course meatless meal honouring the twelve apostles.

Afterwards, people would go door-to-door carolling. Fort McMurray woman Oksana Bodnarchuk states this was her preferred custom.

“Normally individuals would go from house to home and sing to each other and wish them health and happiness,” she said. “It offers more fun for individuals to commemorate together.”

This year, Bodnarchuk’s Christmas Day banquet was only for individuals in her house.

“It’s typically a capacity,” she stated Thursday. “We would have up to 50 individuals in our house and it’s always a huge, huge celebration.”

Local professional photographer Greg Halinda kept customs alive at house with an easy household gathering of his home.

“The food is a huge part of the culture and we made a big batch of cabbage rolls,” said Halinda. “We do not normally make them every year, so it felt special to do it this year.”

COVID-19 has also cancelled annual New Year’s Eve celebrations, which is called Malanka, on the Julian Calendar.

Normally, the Fort McMurray Avrora Ukrainian Dance Club would lease Shell Location’s banquet hall and serve pirogies, cabbage rolls, borscht, chicken kyiv and other Ukrainian foods. The club would entertain numerous individuals– normally around 400 attendees– with dancing and singing.

Halinda, whose daughter belongs to the dance club, would photograph the performances and the occasion.”

It’s constantly special to photograph your own child and kids of other parents in the community,” said Halinda. “I’m going to miss, not only viewing them dance, however also photographing them.”

Lee-Anne Kumka, president of the Fort McMurray Ukrainian Cultural Society, is organizing online Malanka celebrations through a get-together on Zoom. The cultural society is also posting videos from last year’s events to Facebook.

“Generally, Malanka is an actually amazing party,” said Kumka. “Maybe events will look a bit different, but it still links us to our family and the community we have here.”

Kumka wishes to keep the spirit of community in the New Year with online activities planned for the Ukrainian neighborhood. Standard crafts in addition to Ukrainian dance classes will be offered in the coming weeks.”

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We’re confident we will have the ability to congregate again but we’re doing what we can in the meantime,” stated Kumka. “Malanka is about reaching out to your friends and family and we can still do that even if we can’t be together.”

Christmas Stockings

Christmas Pullovers

Christmas Pullovers

Christmas Dresses

Christmas Dresses

Christmas Jewelry