Food, family and friends filled Barb Dedi’s home Saturday night on Ukrainian Christmas Eve.
Dedi began inviting people from different ethnic communities to her traditional feast back in 1995.
“I was always being invited to many other cultural events and the sharing of their traditions, so I thought, ‘Well, the most important event in my family is Christmas Eve,'” she said, noting the guest list has grown every year since.
With more than 20 dishes on the menu — 12 of them meatless to represent the 12 apostles — Dedi said it’s imperative she starts preparing in the summertime to guarantee everything is homemade.
“The sauerkraut we make in the summer. Then, we make the sour leaves for the cabbage rolls — my husband does that — it’s about 200 pounds a year for cabbage rolls, then we freeze it,” she explained.
However, out of all the 12 meatless dishes served, she said kutia — wheat, poppy seed and honey — is the most sacred because it brings good luck.
“In years gone by, what we did is we used to throw wheat to the ceiling and if some kernels stuck to the ceiling, that would show how much good luck you’re going to have. Now we don’t with stucco ceilings — it’s just totally impossible,” she said with a laugh.
Around 30 people — from local cultural leaders to dignitaries — filled Dedi’s living room-long dinner table Saturday night, including Nelson Eng, who was there representing Regina’s Chinese community.
“I always tell people: one world, one nation. I don’t care where you come from, as long as you treat me right, I’ll treat you right — and here, we’re friends,” said Eng, adding he’s been attending the Ukrainian dinner for more than a decade.
Another non-Ukrainian who’s attended as an honoured guest for years is Elder Lorna Standingready, who gave the blessing before the meal.
“We’re so happy — you can hear it in the background. There’s people talking and it’s wonderful to feel, it’s wonderful to see,” she said. “In today’s world, it’s reconciliation and this is reconciliation at its best.”
Creating connections through food and friendship is why Dedi said she started adding people to her Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner table years ago.
“I want them to take the good luck that comes from having this meal … and also, the flavour of our food and just the fellowship.”