Saturday, December 15, 2007

sold out Vilija dinner keeps growing every year

Last Sunday at St.Matthias' Hall in the southside neighborhood of Lansingville, hundreds and hundreds of people joined together in the celebration of Vilija: the traditional slovak christmas eve meal.

Sponsored by the American Slovak Cultural Association of the Mahoning Valley, the event celebrates central european cultural traditions and raises funds for its many scholarship programs and outreach.

All people - those of Slovak decent and new visitors to the neighborhood - are welcomed into the community for a great feast with flowing wine and traditional slovak entertainment.

Last year's special guest was the Ambassador to the United States from Slovakia. This year the new bishop of the Youngstown Diocese, The Most Reverend George Murry, joined the celebration - and picked up a many words of wisdom and thanks during the offical program (in the slovak language, of course).

The meal begins with oplatky and honey, to remind us of life's sweetness. Next, big bowls of kapustnica (mushroom and sauerkraut soup) are brought to each table and distributed to each guest.

The main course is a meatless tradition, with ryba (fish), pirohy, hrach (peas), bobalky (dough balls with poppy seed), jablko (apples) and slovak beer and wine. Poppy seed and walnut kolač were availble to all for dessert.

Soon after the meal, scholarships were presented to students from various local slovak organizations. Pictured here is the student coming this year from Youngstown's sister city, Spišská Nová Ves, through the organization's exchange program. Also awarded scholarships were the local American students who studied for a year in Slovakia.

This was followed by the entertainment for the evening, this year provided by the acting and singing group the Pittsburgh Slovakians.

What's amazing about all of this is that the Slovak community in Youngstown continues to hang in there, some might say even thrive. People continue to donate their time and gifts for auction (like the signed boxing gloves by Lansingville native and resident, World Champion Kelly Pavlik). The language continues to be spoken, and the traditions continue be passed down to even younger generations.

You too can be a part of all this!

And that's another jewel Youngstown has that many places don't. The appreciation and celebration of ethnic foods, the festivals, the crazy last names from the many cultures that came to this nation years ago - and continue to come today.

We've got soul, baby. And we have to keep that soul going.

We need to re-seed our neighborhoods with new immigrants, so we can build more of what makes Youngstown special (and get at least one Thai and Indian restaurant, please). Many communities across the U.S. have nothing like we do, and sometimes we need to appreciate it a little more.

Kudos to the organizers, they did a great job in organizing the Vilija.

And until the big feast next year, dobrú chuť.


HMac said...

Yummm! I'm still dreaming about that nut kolachi. What a wonderful evening of good friends, great food and entertaining/educational cultural presentations. Thanks for the invite... and I'm totally going to be Slovak for Halloween in 2008! ;)

George Nemeth said...

While I was working Thu at Azman's, a couple of ladies had driven up from Y-town to buy sausages.

Debra Weaver said...

Wow! that food looks fantastic! and you are quite right about encouraging immigration, the more diversity the better! next year I definately want to know about the dinner in advance.

leah1351 said...

It was a fun evening! Thanks for the invite. I should learn slovak though, I think the play would have been far more amusing. Cultural events are what keeps life interesting.