Celebrating Ukrainian Easter
Among both Ukrainian Catholics and Ukrainian Orthodox, no other holiday,
save Christmas, stirs the soul nor is so glorious and joyful as that of
Easter, when we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Son of God,
from the dead.
Parishoners come into church first before their baskets are blessed
to pray and then to kiss the "Plashchenytsia" (the symbolic
Body of Christ as it is still in the tomb). They approach the
"Plashchenytsia" on their knees in an expression of humility.
The people then go outside to the rear of the church. Easter baskets
are blessed at Saint Michaelís Ukrainian Catholic Church in Yonkers
as they have been blessed at churches throughout Ukraine for centuries.
There are so many parishoners that they have to get together at several
different times on a Saturday at the field next to the church and lay out
their baskets on the ground in preparation for them to be blessed by the
priest with Holy Water. It is not unusual to see several generations of
one family get together for this blessed event. Many come dressed in
their embroidered Ukrainian blouses and shirts to show off their pride.
Young or old, this is a special time when all come to appreciate their
roots and centuries old traditions.
Ukrainian Easter eggs, called "pysanky", are exchanged or given
to that certain special someone with the Easter greeting "Khrystos
Voskres!" ("Christ is Risen!") to which one replies
"Voistynou Voskres!" ("Indeed He has Risen!").
Easter Divine Liturgy is held very early on Sunday morning, starting at
around 5:30 AM and ending at 9:00. Once Divine Liturgy is over and everyone
has wished their friends "Khrystos Voskres!" outside of church,
every one heads home to end the long fast with an Easter breakfast of
blessed food. All of these things were blessed the day before but no
one could enjoy them till now.
A traditional Ukrainian Easter basket is usually made of wicker or straw.
Inside the basket it is usually decorated with "barvinok"
("vinca") or a grass mat. A boiled egg has its shell removed
so that it can be properly blessed. There is usually a meat product
such as ham, roast pork, lamb, or a piece of kovbasa. Butter,
often formed into the shape of a lamb lying down (representing the
Lamb of God) sits on a plate. Cream cheese or egg-cheese is decorated
with the Sign of the Cross with cloves and bay leaves. A fresh horseradish
root (with the green leaves still on top) sits in one corner while salt
in a small dish sits in another. Tsvikli is also part of the basket array.
In the center of the basket sits the Easter Paska, surrounded by
"Pysanky" and "Krashanky" (coloured eggs). A candle
is lit in the basket during the Blessing. Once the basket and food has
been blessed, it is covered with an embroidered towel. No two towels
are identical and it is truly a beautiful thing to see.
Depending on the family, Easter Dinner is served during lunch because
many have to head home early and prepare for work the next day. In Ukraine,
Easter Monday would be a day off but that luxury doesnít exist here.
Easter Dinner would include all of the above Blessed Foods plus pyrohy,
holubtsi, mashed potatoes and gravy, salads, vegetables, studenetz, cakes,
cheesecakes, tortes, and coffee, tea, and other beverages.