So one day my Grannie MacDonald says to me, "By the way, you're part Ukrainian. Thought I'd tell you." It was just after my Granddad MacDonald's funeral. I regarded the name chiselled onto the granite tombstone and it struck me as odd: "William Bill MacDonald." Me: "Grannie, is that right? That's like calling him 'William William' or 'Bill Bill'." Grannie: "Pish. Gwan. MacDonald wasn't his real name either. No need fussing about it." Me: "What do you mean not his real name either?" Grannie: "Well, heavens, MacDonald wasn't his family's name. I think it was something like Polansky or possibly Podolsky. Can't say for sure." Me: "So he wasn't Scottish?!" Grannie: "Not unless the Scottish come from Ukraine. Thought someone would have mentioned it to you. You're part Ukrainian. A wee bit less Scottish and Irish." And then the penny dropped. It made sense. Granddad had never talked about his childhood in Saskatchewan, and he had always deflected all of my probing questions. Most importantly, my mother and aunts all have these round faces and high cheekbones, not what you'd consider typically Irish or Scottish features. While no one in our family has fully embraced our surprise Ukrainian heritage (perhaps the reason being we are in fact only one-quarter Ukrainian – Scottish, Irish and French making up the whole), I do think about our 'one part 'Ukrainian-ness' especially at this time of year as Ukrainians across Canada celebrate Christmas on January 7. I've delved into the subject and Ukrainian Christmas foods definitely appeal to me. (The dancing, less so. I just can't seem to get the feel for that frenetic kicking.) And there's no denying I've long had a weakness for the Ukrainian Mushroom-stuffed Chicken Breast Recipe on the Canadian Living web site. I've yet to travel to Ukraine, though it's been on my list for several years now – to splash in the Crimean Sea, hike the Carpathian Mountains, wonder the back alleys of Kyiv (also called Kiev)... But I've been curious about travel etiquette in Ukraine so I've done a little research.
Here are some of the etiquette tips I've been advised to follow when I one day visit Ukraine: a) If you bring flowers, make sure the number of flowers is uneven (3,5, etc.). b) Do not whistle; some believe it will "blow your money away." c) Do not shake hands across the threshold of a door. It is considered bad luck. d) Be ready to give toasts at dinner, for guests are often asked to do so. e) Be prepared to accept all food and drink offered when visiting friends. Turning down food may be considered rude. (If you find you cannot eat it all, keep something on your plate to avoid having it replenished!) f) Be careful when complimenting a host's belongings. He or she may offer them to you. g) Don't put your thumb between your first two fingers; this is considered a very rude gesture. So, to honour all four parts of my heritage, I wish you Joyeux Noel (a nod to my one-quarter French heritage), Nollaig Chridheil (Scottish Gaelic), Nollaig Shona Duit (commonly used by the Irish Gaelic) and now I add to the list: "z Rizdvom Khrystovym." Have a Happy Ukrainian Christmas!