I’m lucky because when all the hoo-hah is over, I get to do it again. Ukrainian Christmas!!☺☺☺
Peter, Ukrainian. My “fader”, Ukrainian...except my dad didn’t take a lot of credit for his nationality. He lost his dad when he was a little boy and his mother went mad, in a sweet, kindly, crazy way. She’d open a window from their fourth story walk-up and talk to the sun, in English and Ukrainian. All the neighborhood kids teased my father. And he was raised, bruised and bullied by his older brother. I was named after her. Melanie. Melania. Thin, sturdy, long silver braid, intense eye contact. No one in the family had much use for her or paid her much mind, except on Sundays, me and Frederick (my father, Freddie) would visit ~ mostly, we’d walk and be outside. I haven’t any recollection of her house or her cooking, if any. I know from hearsay, she scrubbed the meat before boiling it. She must have been overly concerned with germs. She’d look me deep in the eyes and say things I mostly didn’t understand but I did get...love.
So, little Christmases came and went till I grew up and cultural inhibitions turned to pride in your nationality. Growing up when I did, we didn’t flaunt having parents or grandparents that came in “on the boat”. We were Americans. “Ma, speak English” I would hear being said to my Italian grandmother when we all lived together and ate Italian food. To me, it was just food. Sausage, onions, and peppers and eggs was breakfast, or toasted Italian bread. Or school lunches, cold eggplant parmigiana on Italian. So as I opened my lunchbox, the aroma wafted down the length of the cafeteria, obscuring the mystery meat and orange mac & cheese that they were serving. Kids might look and easily find the source of those scents, and it was my Howdy Doody lunchbox. I longed for bologna on white bread. My Aunt Jeanie made those with that white stuff. I don’t think we ever owned a jar of mayonnaise growing up, but my Aunt Jeanie worked in a bank and wore tailored business suits and blended well with white America. My Uncle George was working on his masters degree. Academia was beyond suspect of foreignness. We were Altomares and Safkas. (Only a few Safkas.) I hated when someone pronounced Safka like “after” - not Safka, Ah, American.
So this year, and all years since marrying Peter, we’ve celebrated Ukrainian Christmas. Nationality inhibition gives way to celebrating our heritage. I can tell you, it’s humorous to see Germans who come here to slum and shop when an American will say with pride, “German? I’m one-quarter German on my father’s side.” And they might utter, “Danke schoen” or count to ten, “eins, zwei, drei, fear..” People, you gotta love ‘em.
Ukrainian Merry Christmas. Wesołych Świąt. Epiphany. I’ve wanted all my life for a real epiphany. Woodstock was a little epiphany. Out of body experience, this powerful flow of love, brotherhood, sisterhood coming in my direction. The sense of our oneness of mankind. Notice the word “kind” in mankind. Find it somewhere in your heart everyday and Wesołych Świąt!