SASKATOON -- Monday is Christmas Eve for many Ukrainians of the Orthodox faith in Saskatchewan and around the world.

The Powalinsky family celebrates by the Julian calendar. While they do exchange gifts on Dec. 24, Jan. 6 is given more prominence with a focus on culture and religion.

After children, Jacob and Micah, spot the first star the family will enjoy the 12 meatless dishes prepared earlier in the day.

The brothers have been learning about the meaning of the holy night which is steeped in tradition.

"There were animals like cows, calves and sheep at the birth of Jesus so that's why we don't eat meat and it's also the number of apostles Jesus had," 12-year-old Jacob told CTV News.

His mom, Ilaria, works to teach her boys the customs associated with Christmas Eve - or Sviat Vechir as it's called in Ukrainian.

"My parents are both gone and my in-laws aren't well enough to do this kind of stuff anymore so if my generation doesn't do this, then it will be lost. So it's very important that my boys and future generations know and understand the importance of what days like this mean."

One of the traditions that starts the night is bringing in the sheaf of wheat, or Gidukh, by the host of the home – in this case, the father, Jim. It represents ancestors and the closeness of family.

Meanwhile, Tania Maximiuk, Ilaria's sister, is on hand to rehearse traditional carols that will be sung throughout the evening such as Boh Predvichne, a solemn carol that translates to God Eternal.

The family also places hay or straw under the table to represent the manger and the children get to dig through it looking for treats. The entire family will be heading to Holy Trinity Cathedral for the 10 pm service.

"The boys will go and lucky for them, they get to sleep in tomorrow. Sometimes they fall asleep and lay in a blanket of jackets, but the important thing is family and being together," Ilaria said.

Many Ukrainian Churches will hold Christmas Eve services throughout the night Monday.

More than 100,000 people identify as Ukrainian in Saskatchewan while about 40,000 reside in Saskatoon.