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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Countdown to Orthodox Easter in Ukraine

 “Khrystos Voskhres!” – “Voistynoo Voskhres!” (“Christ is risen!” - “Indeed risen!”).

This is a common greeting for Easter in Ukraine, one of the most important religious holidays. After seven long weeks of lent, Ukrainians celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Many people regard lent to be some limitation in food, but in reality the main lesson is “not to eat each other” which means: “Don’t hurt each other either by word or deed. Make your soul clean, not just your stomach”.

The most important week preceding Easter Sunday, Holy Week, begins with Palm Sunday (or Willow Sunday). On this day traditionally people go to church to bless branches of pussywillow instead of palm trees and later put them in the corners of their house.

Starting Monday people clean and wash everything in their houses as Pure Thursday (or Clean Thursday) is the last day when cleaning should be finished. In old times people went to Russian sauna and washed themselves as well.

On Passion Friday it was forbidden to have fun, laugh, sing and even work. People had to pray and not to eat anything except bread and drink water till the evening. Nowadays most of Ukrainians go to work and then have a peaceful evening at home. 

On Saturday Ukrainians traditionally prepare two essential items for Easter celebrations. The centerpiece of Easter table is Paskha. It is a kind of sweet bread that Ukrainian women usually bake themselves. It usually has a form of round high column and comes in different sizes. They usually use basic sweet yeast dough and sometimes it takes hours for the dough to rise properly. There is a belief that loud noises are not allowed as dough won’t rise and the Paskha will be solid. That is why some families are really quiet on this day. Everyone chooses what to add to make it tastier. This can be raisins, dried apricots, nuts, etc. Nowadays, many people don’t bother to cook Paskha as it takes rather long, so they buy it in bakeries and markets.

Another common dish is painted eggs. In olden times the mother of the family put different ornaments on the eggs thinking just about good things. Nowadays, this is a type of entertainment that can be shared by everyone, old and young. People paint eggs with brushes and add stickers. It is common to make different pictures, starting from crosses, figures of Christ and other symbols and ending with anything that seems bright and brings joy to ones heart. There are no limitations on what you draw on the egg.

On late Saturday or early Sunday morning religious people go to church and bring Paskha, eggs and other food stuffs to be blessed. After returning from church the whole family sits by the table. Instead of toasting and drinking, every member of the family takes an egg. When the choice is made people strike each other’s eggs together, to break the shells. The one whose egg remains solid is the winner. This egg fight repeats several times during the meal and no egg is safe from the children who enjoy this game very much. During the day people visit their relatives and friends, exchange blessed Paskhas, eggs and other delicious food from their Easter baskets in Ukraine. This is regarded as a day of mutual congratulations.

May your Easter be filled with peace, joy, and happiness!