Thursday, January 7, 2010

Veselykh Sviat! (Happy Holidays!)

The Historical Society does not own as many photographs of holiday festivities as we would like, but here is an exception. Nine members of the Hastings Ukrainian American Society pose for the camera in the costumes that they wore when they went out caroling on Christmas Eve, which by the Eastern Orthodox calendar is January 6th. The photograph was probably taken in the late 1920s and shows, left to right, standing: Steven Borys, Steve Konick, Nick Perik, Michael Myhal, John Penderski, Mr. Siwick; seated: John Politza, Mr. Kozemchyk, and Michael Fedew, who ran a saloon near the train station that was popular with the Hastings immigrant community. Most of the men pictured here worked in the waterfront industries and lived nearby with their families. (Some of the identifications have been challenged and some are incomplete, so if one of our names seems wrong to you, let us know.)

These carolers are following a Ukrainian tradition that goes back in Hastings at least into the 1910s and much further back in the Ukraine. Dinner on Christmas Eve breaks a forty-day fast with a meal celebrating the bounties of the harvest. Caroling comes after dinner, as described by the Ukrainian ethnomusicologist Sofia Hrytsa in an article she wrote in 1999.

“After the meal, young carolers, koliadnyky, go from house to house singing carols and performing a short play on the Christmas theme, called a vertep. The characters usually include shepherds, the three wise men, angels, and devils. One of the carolers says a vinshuvania (a short poem), wishing each of the household members a prosperous and bountiful New Year:

Glory to God,
King of the Heavens!
Grant the hospodar [host] lucky years
By the sevens!
Glory to You God, Glory today!
Grant the hospodynia [hostess]
As many years as you may!”

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