Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Merry Christmas again--this time on January 7!

A Ukrainian feast in Doha

Lucy and Ibrahim dressed up in Ukrainian attire on Christmas Eve.... 

Much of the world is getting back to work, school and taking down the Christmas decorations right now. But today is a special day, Christmas Day, in other parts of the world. Last year on this day I celebrated with Ukrainian friends in Doha, Qatar on their Christmas Day on January 7, and we plan on doing it again tonight--a world away in the United States. Much of the world celebrates the Gregorian calendar that confirms Christmas is on December 25. But Orthodox and East Orthodox celebrate the Julian calendar--which means Christmas falls on January 7. These are the countries that typically celebrate it in January: Belarus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, and Ukraine.

Music and caroling is a a big part of the Ukrainian Christmas

In the countries where Christmas is on January 7, many people have fasted for 40 days from meat. They bring to their Christmas Eve table 12 dishes that represent each of the 12 apostles--typically with no meat--waiting for the Christmas Day feast to have meat. It is called the Fast of Philip. These are some of the dishes they have in Ukraine: Grain pudding made with wheat berries or barly, braided breads, often red borscht, meatless cabbage rolls bean dishes, mushroom dishes, and poppyseed cake.

Poppyseed roll
  • 3/4 cup milk, warmed.
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast.
  • 1/3 cup sugar.
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.
  • 1 tsp. salt.
  • 1 large egg.
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted.
  • 1 tsp. vanilla.
  • Grated zest of a lemon (optional).
Poppyseed filling:
  • 1/2 cup poppyseed.
  • 1/3 cup ground almonds or ground/finely chopped walnuts.
  • 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk.
  • 1/4 cup sugar.
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing.
To make the dough, put the warm milk in a large bowl (the bowl of your stand mixer, if you have one) and sprinkle with the yeast and a pinch of the sugar. Let stand for five minutes, or until it gets foamy. (If it doesn't, you may need fresh yeast.)
Add the rest of the sugar along with the flour, salt, egg, butter, vanilla and lemon zest, if you're using it.
Stir until the dough comes together and is smooth and sticky. Cover and let rest for an hour or so. Meanwhile, make the filling: if you like, grind the poppyseed in a spice grinder or using the finest setting of a food mill.
Transfer to a bowl and stir in the ground almonds, sweetened condensed milk and sugar. (Some like to boil their poppy seeds to soften them first. To do this, cover with water in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, remove from the heat and let sit for 20 minutes or so, then strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve).
Divide the dough in half and roll each into a large oval that's about 8x12-inches. Spread each with half the poppyseed filling, leaving about an inch gap around the edges.
Roll each up loosely, starting from a long side, and place seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rest for another hour while you preheat the oven to 350˚F.
Brush the loaves with beaten egg. (I dipped my fork into the remaining sweetened condensed milk before stirring up the egg, to give it a little extra sweetness, which will create a darker, glossier crust). Bake for 25-30 minutes, until deep golden. Let cool slightly before slicing on a slight diagonal.
Makes 2 loaves, serves about 12.
The barley salad that represents a hopeful abundant harvest and gratitude for the past harvest.

Some of the delectable food--beetroot salad, wheat/barley salad, cabbage roll, lentil salad, and of course the borscht.

So if you have a desire to leave the decorations a little longer, you can still celebrate like us tonight for Christmas. In my opinion, the dark winter nights in January are perfect for some more gatherings with light, food, and music to share....

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