I was born and raised in the most beautiful city in the western part of Ukraine, Lviv. My whole family lives in a cozy town house in a friendly neighborhood. We never locked our doors in case someone needed something, so they could get in and take it. There was one town house in the neighborhood from which people were always moving to the U.S. For whole my childhood, I knew four families who lived there. Kids from all around were thinking if they moved to that place they would go to America. It was the dream of our lives. America was the country where people never cried, lived their lives happily. I never had a chance to live in that town house, but I had a chance to move into USA. Chicago is where I started my independent adult life, and it is from this point I started to realize how many things I miss from my country.
At this moment, I am living in the part of Chicago which is called Ukrainian village. There are a lot of cultural centres, grocery stores, cafes and diners with Ukrainian food, but even here is hard to feel Ukrainian traditions and customs the way they are in Ukraine, especially on the holidays. The most celebrated holiday in Ukraine is Christmas. Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on January 7th, with traditional food, carols and certain ceremonies. For us, is very important to have each of these specifications; otherwise, it is not going to be a real Christmas. Every new year I have been in the U.S. I was working so hard to make Ukrainian Christmas the way I used to know. In Ukrainian traditions there is Holy supper on January 6th, with twelve dishes without meat, eggs or milk. I tried such a big amount of products from all over the world until I found what I liked the most. Only from that moment, my dishes started to taste just like my mother and grandmother used to make them.
However, reaching of good results in cooking didn’t bring the holiday spirit. To me, Christmas is not only about food. It is also about a warm, cozy home with beloved people around and traditional songs. I have close friends in the U.S. with me, and I call them my second family, but they can’t replace my dearest ones. Very often on holidays I think about them, about all the chaos right before a holly supper and about my mother, who was always making us to do something. I will never going to forget my grandmother’s carols that she would sing after supper. She wanted my sister and me sing with her, but we never did. I am still not singing carols, but I will be glad to listen my grandmother’s singing again. All of these things used to make Christmas for me.
The most interesting part of the Christmas holiday is that Ukrainians do not exchange the gifts. I think it is because we don’t have a Santa. Christmas in Ukraine is all about the appearance of Jesus Christ in this world, so it is a very religious holiday. On the night of December 19, St. Nickolas brings us the gifts. He puts them, just like Tooth Fairy puts money, under the pillow only to the ones who were nice for whole year. The naughty ones only receive tiny branch from the tree, which helps to beat them up for all bad things that they did. I still have a little dream. I want to find a gift from St. Nick under my pillow one more time. I am so tired of receiving them through the mail. It kills all the magic. The child inside of me refuses to accept it.
Since I came in to U.S., I discovered and learned so many new things, which make me feel better about myself. I can compare two different worlds, two different cultures and take the best each one. Moreover, now a Christmas holiday season that is twice as long and a twice as many gifts. I feel very comfortable in the US, but every once in a while I have nostalgia for my homeland, where I left big part of me, my past, my thoughts and my family.