Several months ago, I was invited to attend the Christening of Sonya, the daughter of my close friends, Vika and Vova. Her ceremony was scheduled to be after right her 1st birthday (she was born September 11, 2011) and right before my 1st year PC anniversary. Four generations of family plus close friends and far away friends showed up to celebrate and dedicate such a sweet baby girl.
The ceremony itself was in the afternoon while dinner and dancing lasted way into the night. Only the parents, godparents, and a few friends were invited to the church. I was so excited to be there because 1)I've never been a christening before 2)I love Sonya and her entire family 3)I leap at the chance to photograph such an event. Nope. When the priest caught wind that an american was present he promptly asked if I was protestant. With the reply of 'Yes' (not realizing what was happening) he led me to the door with the phrase, "You can't be in this church. It's my rules, it's God's rules." Wow. I was confused, shocked, and had no idea how to react. I have been in many Ukrainian Catholic churches before during large holiday celebrations or regular Sunday services. Previously, I was in a church in the community I lived in where the priest knew me and the people who were around me. This church was in a strange village with a priest who had never seen me before. All in all, I shook it off. Not every experience in Ukraine is a sweet one. Tough love never ceases in these parts.
After the ceremony, the grand feast began. Three tables were set up in a tent to feed 50 people aka 100 people worth of food and drink. Outrageous. I have been messing village dining since moving into my apartment town. This meal made up for the time lost. At least six grandmothers and mommas were cooking from dawn until dinner time fixing everything. It all tasted fresh and wonderful and covered in mayonnaise! Celebrating continued through many courses, hours of dancing, putting money under the pillow Vika sat on, and letting Sonya grab items which represented her future prosperity. No one called each other by name but by title - Godfather, Godmother, Mother, Father, Grandmother. I was given the title 'Aunt from Across the Ocean'. I like the ring of 'Aunt Cassie'.
I was able to meet the granddad of Vova and Kati (my closest friend). Andriy sized me up, asked me a few questions, and invited me to visit his house next time I visit his grandkids. He made sure I had a plate full of food and put his arm around me during our bumpy car ride home to 'hold on tight'. I got a big kiss good-bye too! I adore meeting people like Andriy. He had such stories to tell and wanted to know everything single thing about me. We could have spent the entire evening chatting but there were far too many people drawing our attention elsewhere. Sonya's celebration hosted many new characters for me to meet. One guy was absolutely amazed that the woman sitting near him, speaking Ukrainian, wearing Ukrainian hair and clothing was from America. I guess he didn't notice my accent from across the table? He told me a grand story about his only friends in San Francisco. My name then changed to San Francisco. 'San Francisco, eat! San Francisco, dance with me! San Francisco, where are you from? Oh, not San Francisco. Where is Kentucky?' I am never not surprised here. My crew finally called it at 2 am and slugged home to our beds.
Enjoy photos from the day!
After I was sent out of the church, I found a large key hole through which I captured a few moments.
My photo professors were singing inside my head.
Even the lobby was ancient and beautiful.
Sonya is Christened! Nap time!
Vika stands center with Sonya. My Kati and Sasha, godparents stand to the right. Vova, father, stands further right. Everyone else is friends or Vika's relatives.
Halya, Kati and Vova's mom, with her dad, Andriy
This photo is so Ukrainian, I can't stand it!
Vova and Kati holding Sonya and the Christening certificate.
Their various expressions shows more of their culture than their personalities.
Sweet Dana enjoying the last bits of daylight
A portion of one of the three tables
I love both these women so much.
Granny Halya spending a few quiet moments with her baby girl.
Sonya selected nail polish for beauty, money for wealth, a pen for knowledge. I think that's how it goes!
Kati the Godmother cuts off some of Sonya's hair but I do not remember the purpose of this. I'll have to ask her and let you know later.
In these parts, the party never stops.