My Russian-Polish Mother-in-law, Baba (which means Grandmother) introduced me to a family tradition that we continue to observe yearly, which ends the sometimes hectic holidays with peace and the oft used phrase "Good will to All". The following account is how our Pennsylvania coal mining family celebrates Holy Supper. Holy Supper is a Russian Orthodox family celebration held on the 12th day of Christmas to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Besides cooking and baking, there are many traditions observed year after year which make this dinner a special family gathering. The table must be set with a white cloth where straw is placed under the four corners to symbolize God's love over the earth. A candle is set in dish of wheat where each person places a coin to represent the gifts of the Three Kings and makes sure that wherever you travel you will never be broke. Straw is placed under the table with an empty manger awaiting the arrival of the Christ Child. A dish is placed on the table with salt and raw garlic to represent the bitterness of life and a way to ward off evil. A dish of honey is also on the table as a symbol of the sweetness of life. An extra place is set at the table in case we have a unexpected visitor. Twelve dishes, which represent the 12 disciples, are served, each blessed by the head of the household, and eaten separately. A toast is made as each dish is served. The oldest person at the table begins the round of toasts with the first dish and the youngest ends the toasting when the last dish is served. When dinner is complete, everyone stands and circles the table 3 times....we hold hands and sing Silent Night. As we stand at our chairs we encourage the young people to look under the table, and behold, much to their delight, they see that Jesus has arrived and is lying cozy in the manger. To end the celebration, the youngest person blows out the candle on the table and we all watch the smoke rise. Whoever it touches first will be most Blessed in the coming year, however it has always been our experience that the smoke touches all of us as we end Holy Supper. In our family tradition, only the Mother in the family-the Matushka-can prepare the dishes. It is a strict-fasting meal so no dairy or meat products can be used. Each person must try a taste of everything on the table which is where the fun begins as we show the reluctant diners how to wrap the raw garlic in the bread and dip it in honey. Most everyone loves the pierogi, mashed potatoes , sauerkraut and mushroom soup so by the time they come to the last dish of lima beans and prunes, we have earned their trust. Thank you for the opportunity to submit this somewhat dated recipe. Whatever the outcome, whether it is read by a wider audience or not, I have enjoyed giving voice to our special family tradition.
In a large pot, sift flour, allspice, raisins and add Holy Water. In a smaller pot, put the warm water, yeast and sugar. Let it stand until yeast works and foams some. In another small pot, put the oil to warm and the salt to melt some, then add this to the yeast mixture. Stir it good, then pour all this slowly into the flour and with one hand mix while the other one is pouring slowly until all is used up. Knead a while in the pot, then take the dough out on a floured table or board and knead for 20 minutes to ½ hour. The dough has to be a little sticky but not that it stays on your hands. When it’s good and kneaded, grease the pot inside and put the dough back into the pot. Oil the dough a little on top and cover with a lid that was oiled or greased a little and let raise until double in a warm place. Don’t let it get chilled or it won’t raise for you. Keep it warm in the kitchen and when dough raises about double, say 2 hours, then punch down about a minute and let it raise again ½ hour. Then punch down again and set it on an oiled cookie sheet to rest and raise before baking, but grease the top so wax paper doesn’t stick to it. Cover with the wax paper and towel and let raise about 1/2 hour while your getting oven hot to 375 degrees. Bake for 35 minutes or until it feels light.
Before you set the bread in the oven, pierce top of bread with a cake tester with a crisscross to let air out, and say “God Bless the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.” After bread is baked, do like I said and run cold water over your hands and wash the bread off all around just lightly not too much while it’s still warm. Put honey over it and let it cool, but make sure you put wax paper over the bread first, so it keeps soft, and cover also with an added cloth.