Stedry vecer: Bountiful Night

Stedry vecer:

Bountiful Night


A traditional Slovak Christmas Eve begins with a small child who spots the first star, marking the beginning of Vilija, or Stedry vecer (Vigil supper).

A yearly dinner in Greensburg organized by the First Catholic Slovak Union begins the same way; a small child spots a star, the crowd erupts with excitement and an amazing evening begins!

“I love celebrating the Vilija every year,” said William Patty, George Onda District president. He and his wife help to organize the Greensburg event.

After Mass, a crowd files into the dining room at Christ Our Shepherd Center, where tables are adorned with honey, garlic and colorful oplatki, or Christmas wafers.

Msgr. Larry Kulick, diocesan administrator, serves as emcee and explains the religious and historical significance of each course.

“Oplatki is both a Christmas offering like the Eucharist in the unleavened bread, but it also reminds us of our passage from sin to the life of grace,” he said.

“The garlic is taken first. The garlic is to symbolize sin. The world before Christ was a world of sin,” he said.

Guests dip the oplatki into the honey and allow the sweetness to overcome the bitter taste of garlic, just as Christ overcame sin and death.

The second course is mushroom soup. It symbolizes prosperity because mushrooms grow without being planted.

After the rest of the delicious traditional Slovak Christmas Eve dinner, guests are treated to a Slovak performance about the birth of Christ by the Pittsburgh Slovakians dance troupe.

The dancers span many generations. Their camaraderie brings tears to the eyes of dancer Rudolph Ondrejco.

“When you become a member, you are a member for life. Even if you go to school, you come back, you’re one of us,” Ondrejco said.

Marcela Michalsova, director of the Slovak Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh, attended the event for the first time in 2019.

“It’s beyond my expectations. Actually, I didn’t know what to expect. It certainly is, during this season of rush and responsibilities, that you have a moment of calming when you realize what is coming in several weeks,” Michalsova said.

Celebrating these Slovak Christmas traditions is especially meaningful to many who remember a time when they could not practice their Catholic faith in Slovakia. That all changed after the fall of Communism in 1989.

“There are a lot of young people who are reinventing themselves, who are finding strong belief inside this more and more secular world,” Michalsova said.

Organizers have plans to resume the Bountiful Night event next year. If you are interested in receiving information next fall, visit

Darlene Patty, district vice president, said, “We as a Slovak society are so fortunate to have this wonderful event to carry on the tradition.”

The George Onda District of the First Catholic Slovak Union began its Stedry vecer in 1993. This year’s event, if held, would have been its 27th annual dinner. In addition to William and Darlene Patty, district officers are Linda Gonta, secretary, and Stephen Gonta, treasurer.

Veselé Vianoce!

Interested in attending next year’s traditional Slovak dinner at Christ Our Shepherd Center/ click here.

Msgr. Larry J. Kulick gives the homily during Mass before last year’s Stedry vecer.

Traditional dancing and plenty of food highlight the 2019 Stedry vecer held at Christ Our Shepherd Center.


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