According to custom, the meal begins after the first star appears in the sky.
Everyone is standing. The father exclaims for the first time the Christmas Greeting:
Christ is Born!
The family replies:
One of the children, with ewer and basin, washes the hands of each of the family members, in order from eldest to youngest. A silver coin may be placed in the basin, then given to the youngest child.
After this is complete, the father takes a rope, sprinkles it with holy water and ties it around the legs of the table. This symbolizing the ever-lasting bond of the family.
The mother sprinkles the family members with holy water so that their souls and minds may be receptive to the meaning of the Birth of Christ.
The father then sprinkles the animals of the household (if there be any) with the holy water reminding the family of the animals in the stable when Christ was born.
A single candle, placed near the center of the table, is now lit. This reminds us of the apperance of Christ, the Light of the World, who was born this day.
The father leads the family in a prayer of gratitude to God for the past year. It includes petitions for health, happiness, long life, salvation and that the family may be united in love forever.
The entire family now joins in the singing of the Troparion and Kondakion for the Feast:
Tone 4 - Your Nativity, O Christ our God, * has shone to the world the light of understanding! * For by it, those who worshipped the stars, * were taught by a star to adore You, * the Sun of Righteousness, * and to know You as the Orient from on high. * O Lord, glory to You!
Tone 3 - Today the Virgin gives birth to the Trancendent One, * and the earth offers a cave to the unapproachable One! * Angels with shepherds glorify Him! The Wise men journey with the Star! * Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a little child!
The father then blesses the food:
Lord Jesus Christ, Who was born in a manger for our sake and salvation, bless this food and drink of Your servants, for You are holy, always, now and ever, and forever.
The "Christmas Greeting" is now exchanged.
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!
Everyone may now be seated.
The father breaks the bread, first making the sign of the cross on the bottom of the loaf with the knife, and gives a piece to each member of the family. The bread is a symbol of Christ, the Bread of Life. The bread is then eaten.
The father then toasts:
Good Christians! I greet you on the Feast of Christ's Nativity and wish that the Lord grant us good health and fortune to praise the eternal God for many years.
Grant this, O God!
The mother takes a tooth of garlic, dips it in honey and makes the sign of the cross over the forehead of each family member. The honey sybolizes sweetness in life, and the garlic, bitterness.
The meal now begins. No one is permitted to skip a dish.
After the dinner is complete, the father reads one of the accounts of Christ's birth from Holy Scripture. Then kol'day - traditional carols - are sung.
Composed by David M. Mastroberte - 1995, revised 1997, 1998