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Many Manitobans begin a special Christmas celebration today, as the Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas today and tomorrow. To many, it's simply known as "Ukrainian Christmas."

January 6 is Christmas Eve and January 7 is Christmas day on the Julian Calendar.

maximiukgFather Eugene Maximiuk (uocc.ca)Christmas Eve plays an important and central role in the holiday, according to Father Eugene Maximiuk, Archpriest at Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral in Winnipeg.

Families gather for a special meal on the evening of Christmas Eve. A prayer is said at the begining of this meal, and then typically the father will give the traditional Christmas greeting, "Khristos rodyvsya!" which means "Christ is born!" The family then gives the response, "Slavite Yoho!" which means "Let us glorify Him!"

The meal itself is made up of a variety of special foods, meant to tell the story of Christ's birth and ministry. The meal is a lenten meal, meaning it's part of a fast, which doesn't end until Christmas day, and so is made up of 12 meatless dishes.  

"The number 12 is used to represent the 12 apostles," Father Eugene says. But the meal doesn't simply begin when everybody arrives. "The family gathers together, and watches for the first star to come out," Father Eugene tells us, with the children closely watching the Eastern sky for that star's appearance. 

Caroling was also once an important piece to the holiday, but Father Eugene notes that is becoming less common. "It's getting harder and harder, with the current lifestyles and busyness, but there are some groups that still go out."

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