MOUNT CARMEL - A local church will open its doors for the holiday season to share with the community the traditions of a Ukrainian Christmas Eve celebration.

SS Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church will present its first community Christmas pageant at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16 in the church.

"You can never celebrate Christmas enough, and we welcome everyone to come, learn about our traditions and celebrate with us," the very Rev. Michael Hutsko, pastor, said.

Rehearsals are currently under way with 25 young parishioners working on two different shows that will be tied together, a live nativity scene and the depiction of a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner, with 12 meatless dishes including "kutya," a sweet grain pudding served and used in the dinner's tradition.

"In the old days, they would take a piece of the kutya and throw it on the ceiling," said pageant director Ed Cuff. "The longer it would stick would give you more good luck in the coming year."

Cuff will be assisted by the church's religious education teachers, Christine Bogner, Michelle Forti, Gene and Amy LaPoint and Ed Teevan.

Rev. Hutsko said the pageant idea started in his former parish in Minersville and became an overwhelming success.

"There was a lot of activity back then, but we would fill the hall of St. Nicholas Church in Primrose with everyone celebrating the season," Hutsko said. "After a couple of years of doing it for our parishioners here, I wanted to bring everyone together in the community for it."

With that, the plans were put in motion for the pageant with not only the children performing, but also about 12 members of the parish's choir, which will perform American and traditional Ukrainian Christmas carols.

"We will also have members of the Penn State Blue Band performing - a brass ensemble with music that will correlate with the play," Hutsko said.

Following the pageant, everyone in attendance will be invited to the church hall for a catered hot buffet meal.

"We want to make this an annual event and bring the community together to celebrate with us," the pastor said.