Midland Family Honors Its Promise
After their widowed mother died in 1956, the five siblings in the Borato family of Midland promised each other that they always would spend Orthodox Christmas together.
They have kept their promise for 56 years, even after a brother, Milan, died four years ago at age 84. Each has taken turns hosting a traditional holiday dinner, the most celebratory meal of the year for Serbian Orthodox Christians.
Pauline "Pava" Borato died on May 5, 1956.
Daniel "Jake" Borato, 83, of Industry, played host this year to the dinner, held on Saturday in the St. Anthony Club in Midland. About 40 people, including 10 children and their families, attended. Some guests traveled from as far away as Florida, Georgia, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
"We're honoring her memory," Pauline Borato's daughter, Evelyn Dawson, 80, said of the family's decades-long tradition. "Our mother always told us, even as kids, how important it was to be together on Christmas."
Christmas is one of the holiest days of the year for Serbian Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian calendar. It is preceded by 40 days of fasting during Advent. Adherents do not eat meat, dairy or eggs until Christmas Day, which this year was Jan. 7. A meatless meal is served on Christmas Eve.
Christmas dinner is lavish, featuring roast pig, baked ham and abundant side dishes and desserts.
Dawson, the youngest sibling, lives in East Liverpool, Ohio, near Midland. Her brothers George, 89, and Nick, 85, reside in Westlake, Ohio, near Cleveland.
The location of the family's Christmas dinner rotates each year between the Midland area and Westlake.
The siblings held the dinners at their homes before moving them several years ago to restaurants and social halls to handle a growing family that now includes great-grandchildren.
"One year, when travel was cheaper, we had 83 people," said Mark Borato, 54, Daniel's son, who helped organize this year's dinner. "The siblings sit at the head table, with my Uncle George, as the oldest, leading the toasts.
"My cousins and I used to make toasts, too. By time we were through, though, the soup (at the dinner) was cold. Now, only my father and his brothers and sister make toasts."
Mark, who lives in Omaha, spent two weeks helping his parents prepare food for the dinner and a Christmas Eve dinner at their house.
"My cousins and my brother Ron and I are doing more of the work our parents used to do themselves," he said. "I roasted the pig and did a lot of baking this year. We made a ton of cookies.
"My cousins and I have discussed taking over the dinner entirely, but my father and his brothers and sister won't hear of it. They get tired, but still enjoy doing it."
"I want to do it as long as my health permits," Daniel Borato said.
Dawson looks forward to hosting the dinner in two years.
"God willing, I'll still be around," she said. "I think of my mother and how proud she would be that we're still getting together.
Source: Eastern American Diocese