On Sunday, November 27th, the Ukrainian American Community Center hosted the annual International Holiday Festival. This event highlighted and celebrated the traditions across various cultures and countries of the world. There were live performances, traditional foods, and vendors selling one-of-a-kind and handmade merchandise from the cultures being celebrated.
To kick the day off (literally and figuratively!), the Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Ensemble began the performances with the traditional “welcome dance.” This dance is a compilation of various dance styles, costumes, and music from the many diverse regions of Ukraine — some of which were represented in full-length dances later that afternoon. The dance culminated in the formal presentation of gifts to the audience. Like many other cultures, Ukrainians consider bread, or wheat, to represent sustenance and salt to represent flavor in our lives, and these “gifts of bread and salt” are a symbol of our community’s thanks for all of the support.
Following Cheremosh, the group Det Norske Folkendanslaget brought some Norwegian flavor to the party with their rendition of traditional dances. Next up, S.G. Edelweiss performed the Laendler and the Schuhplattler (or shoe slapping dance) which is a more complicated dance, with specific leg and shoe slaps required from the Bavaria region in Germany.
The special guests of the festival were the dancers from the Ethnic Dance Theatre, an award-winning company dedicated to the artistic performance and preservation of world music, song and dance. They performed authentic Croatian and North Bulgarian dances wearing handmade costumes. Company’s belief is that ethnic music and dance are true affirmations of human artistic expression. Through their performances, they strive to acknowledge the inherent beauty and dignity of all peoples.
The Armenian Dance Ensemble of Minnesota showcased traditional folk dances as they were done in various regions of historic Armenia, aiming to enhance community awareness of the Armenian heritage, culture and history. Sansei Yonsei Kai, the traditional Japanese dance group mesmerized the viewers with the gently flowing precise movements.
The audience enjoyed the wonderful performances by the Lipa Carpatho-Rusyn Slovak Dancers and the Saint Paul Czech and Slovak Dancers, who celebrated their 60th anniversary this year! Everyone cheered and clapped for the fiery performance of the Ballet Folklorico Mexico Azteca, whose dance style is a combination of ballet and folkloric technique that displays the beauty of Mexico while maintaining the essence of Mexico’s heritage. We were happy to welcome again Uptown on the Lakes Morris Dancers showcasing a traditional English type of street performance.
Throughout the afternoon of culture and live dancing, guests enjoyed traditional Ukrainian food provided by the Minneapolis staple, Kramarczuk’s restaurant. Dishes included borscht, sausage, and tasty pierogies. There was also plenty of shopping to do at the UACC on Sunday, as local vendors sold handmade vyshyvanka, Christmas ornaments, canvas paintings, pillows, jewelry, and chocolates, among other items.
As the holiday season begins all around the world, the International Holiday Festival was not only fun and entertaining, but a great way to honor and learn about all of the different ways this time of year is celebrated. The traditions may vary across cultures, but the common theme of celebrating love and respect for everyone connects us all.
By Drew Seibert, Daria Herasymova, and Luda Anastazievzky