WeWriWa—Twelve-dish Christmas supper


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. To mark the recent Russian Orthodox Christmas, this snippet comes from my fourth Russian novel, in a scene featuring the traditional twelve-dish supper of Christmas Eve (6 January). This is the beginning of 1949.

NYU freshmen and Irish twins Igor and Ilya are living with their great-aunt Valeriya and her second husband, Grigoriy Golitsyn (a prince by birth). Their guests are Valeriya and Mr. Golitsyn’s oldest child together, Vasya; his wife Dusya; and their children, 6-year-old Stella and 2-year-old Nora. Also present is Valeriya and Mr. Golitsyn’s daughter Vasilisa, who’s seriously dating another prince by birth.


After the Troparion, Mr. Golitsyn takes out a blue and white bowl of honey and makes the sign of the cross on each person’s forehead in turn, starting with Valeriya and ending with Nora.

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, may you all have sweetness and many good things in life and in the new year,” he pronounces after Nora has been anointed.

Valeriya lights a large yellow candle in the center of the table, contained in a red and white porcelain dish, symbolizing the star of Bethlehem.  Then Stella stands up on her chair and reads the Nativity story from the Gospel of Matthew.  The youngest child is traditionally supposed to read it, but Nora doesn’t know how to read anything yet.  Finally, Mr. Golitsyn asks for God’s blessings on the wine, bread, and food, breaks the round, twisted kalach bread, and distributes it to the other eight people.

The first proper meal of the supper is kutya, cooked barley kasha sweetened with chopped walnuts, honey, dried cranberries, and poppy seeds.  Also around the table are caviar, mushroom soup, fish soup with dumplings, cabbage soup, pickled mushrooms, pirozhki, stuffed carp, baked trout, draniki, pickled cabbage, boiled potatoes with dill from Vasya and Dusya, raspberry tea, wine, blueberry vareniki, walnut pudding, and assorted dried fruits.


Draniki are potato pancakes; pirozhki are baked or fried buns stuffed with things like mushrooms and beef; and vareniki are kind of like blintzes or crêpes, dough pockets stuffed with either savory or sweet foods. The Troparion is a one-stanza hymn, with many different forms.


14 comments on “WeWriWa—Twelve-dish Christmas supper

  1. Ed Hoornaert says:

    As usual, you use an onslaught of details to put us right in the middle of your story.


  2. nancygideon says:

    Stop! Now I’m hungry. Very vivid. Puts you right into the scene, Carrie Anne!


  3. Sounds like the family is doing pretty well, to have so much variety in the food. I can just picture all of that laid out on the table.


  4. Interesting dishes with exotic names. I know some of them.


  5. Author Jessica E. Subject says:

    That’s quite the feast! I love all the details you include when you describe traditions! 🙂


  6. angelicadawson says:

    Great seasonal excerpt.


  7. Jenna Jaxon says:

    Your descriptions of food always make me hungry, even though I just ate! You also have such a talent for making all the complex relationships and making them clear.


  8. This really paints a picture! A lovely sense of history and connection.


  9. Ooo that is quite the meal. Yummy! Loved this detail!


  10. The details are always so amazing – I feel as if i’m there watching! but sadly I don’t get to eat any of the delicious food you describe so well. Great snippet!


  11. My head is spinning just thinking about all that food. Well, if I wasn’t hungry before, I certainly am now.


  12. That just made me hungry. It’s too early to eat. Great snippet. Love the photos.


  13. P.T. Wyant says:

    So much food! In addition to making me hungry it’s making me tired just thinking about all the work involved in the cooking and the clean up.


  14. I am always hungry after reading your snippets! 🙂 I’ve made vareniki. 🙂
    Wonderful, detail-filled writing, Carrie-Anne!


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