Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ukrainian Easter Traditions

I love the Easter Holiday - I grew up celebrating Ukrainian traditions and continue to do so - I hope to pass on these traditions to my children too one day.  One of my favourite things about the Easter Holiday is that it is filled with symbolism and ancient tranditions, one of my favourites being 'pysanky' - our hand-made and intricate Ukranian Easter Eggs (that have their roots in old pagan traditions and then took on a new meaning once Christianity was spread into Ukraine).  To me, Easter was never about the bunny rabbit or egg hunts - it was about blessing the Easter basket (which is filled with certain foods which then make up our Easter meal - Paska - a sweet egg based bread, Kobasa, ham, horseradish, eggs, cheese, pysanky that were made that year, krashanky -dyed eggs that we later 'fight' with - I'll explain later - and butter).  Easter is also a time to celebrate the fact that Christ has risen an when we greet each other on Easter Sunday and Monday we say 'Xrystoc Voskrec' (Christ is Risen)! Here are a few pics that illustrate some of the Ukrainian traditions (taken from past Easter celebrations):

This is our Easter Basket last year that my mom and I put together - for the butter and cheese, we always make a cross using real cloves - we also use an embroirdered Ukrainian cloth to place underneath and protect the food!

Every year we take the Easter Basket to get blessed by a priest.  The old tradition was to bless the basket right after mass on Sunday an just before eating the Easter meal, but since our church has grown so much and a lot of people have baskets to bless, its usually done on Saturday (which is were I will be going later today!!! - Its such an amazing experience)

One year, Martha Sterwart dedicated a show to Ukrainian Easter Traditions - here she is with her mom and a guest explaining the traditions on her show!

Here are some Pysanky that my mom has collected over the years (many are gifts, as its tradition and considered good luck to give and recieve a pysanka) - Check out for a lot of great informaiton about Pysanky, the ancient pagan roots of the pysanky, what each colour symbolizes and how they are made!  Here are a few more pictures of different pysanky:

Sometimes Pysanky are also made out of bigger eggs like Ostrich eggs - When my mom retired from being a teacher for over 30 years, her friends got together and got an Ostrich egg pysanka made just for her - its incredibly beautiful - I wish I had a picture to show you!  She doesn't let too many people near it - lol

Sitting down for the Easter Meal is always such a treat - I love the hardboiled eggs, my moms potato salad and I especially like the beet-horseradish salad my mom makes - every year my dad and I have a competition to see who can eat the most horseradish - it never ends well, but at least, we both have clear sinuses for the rest of the season!!!

One of the fun traditions we have is to see who chooses the 'Champion' egg - Krashanky are hardboiled eggs that have been dyed with food colouring - when we sit down for the Easter Meal, we each pick an egg and then have an 'egg fight' so to speak, trying to crack the other persons egg shell - if our egg is left unharmed and uncrcracked, its considered the champion egg - I wonder who had the champion egg???:

Happy Easter Everyone - XRYSTOC VOSKREC (Christ is Risen)!!!


Portuguese Prepster said...

just started following your blog! love learning about traditions!

Anonymous said...

Hello Renata, may I ask what church you belong to, are you Orthodox/Catholic?

Renata said...

I belong to a Ukrainian Catholic Church in Brampton, Ontario called St. Elias! Are you ukrainian backround as well?

Anonymous said...

Hello Renata, I'm Emma V from the FB 12BP pages, I asked you about your church, thanks for answering me! I'm Orthodox, a Finnish Orthodox - our tradition must be closest to Russian Orthodoxy but really we have our own Finnish Orthodox Thing going on ;)

If I remember correctly there are different Ukrainian churches, some do have very similar traditions like Russian Orthodox people but hold The Pope as the head of the church etc. Is this the case for you? I have a great deal of respect for the Catholic church and other Christian churches as well.

And we greet each other in Finnish at Easter "Kristus nousi kuolleista!" The answer is "Totisesti nousi!" (=Voistinu Voskrese in Church Slavonic)

Renata said...

Hi Emma,
So great to hear from you - yes, in my church, the mass and services are very similar to the original greek orthodox church, however, since we are Ukrainian Catholic, we do view the pope as the head vs the bishop. I find that the thing I love the most of my church is the emphasis on the choir and singing - I love how melodic it is. It is said that Vladimir the Great who brought Christinaity to Ukraine was looking for a new religion to unify the people - he looked at judaism, the muslim faith and christianity - apparently, when he walked into the byzantine church, he fell in love with the singing and music and so he decided to choose Christianity!. I would love to hear more about your services as masses as well!!! I could understand the old church slovonic that you wrote - its almost identical to what we say!

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