Source: Published in the Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON – For many Ukrainians, the end of the Christmas season is just as important as the beginning.

On Sunday, about 100 people gathered at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village to celebrate Iordan, or the Feast of the Epiphany, to mark the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River. According to Ukrainian Catholics and Orthodox Christians, many of whom follow the Julian calendar, the Christmas festivities began on Jan. 7 and end on Jan. 19. There are more than 300,000 citizens of Ukrainian descent living in Alberta.

“It’s not like rah-rah-rah, Christmas is over, we’re celebrating,” said Ludvik Marianych, who has been attending the event for several years. “But it changes into a different mode: the new year and carols related to everyday life and not just to Christmas. We’re drifting into spring and re-birth.”

After church, the group gathered around a cross made of ice and two pails of water to sing hymns and say prayers. Traditionally, the cross was cut from the frozen surface of a lake or stream. The priests then dipped a candelabra — to symbolize the Holy Trinity — into the pails, followed by a wooden cross. They sprinkled water onto the crowd — a ritual said to protect people from harm in the coming year — and then invited them to take some water home.

Darryl Lesiuk and his family keep the jar of water in their fridge for Easter “or other special times when you need a bit of holy water” to drink.

Another tradition is to have a priest come and bless your home, family and pets with the holy water from Iordan, something Lesiuk has done every few years.

Over a meal of perogies, cabbage rolls, cucumber salad and other dishes, Sylvia Masikewich said she comes to this event every year to keep her culture and traditions alive.

“These days, children don’t know the traditions of our forefathers,” she said, dressed in a red and black hand-stitched blouse she bought while visiting Ukraine two years ago.

Stephan and Olena Cybulsky don’t want that to happen to their two-year-old son Matthew so they speak to him in Ukrainian at home and participate in all the festivities.

“If we don’t teach him, no one will,” Olena said.

“We try to pass on to him the things our parents taught us,” Stephan added. “The more we can immerse him in it, the better.”