Easter celebration is approaching…
Growing up in a protestant family I attended church regularly. Easter and Christmas were a very important part of my Christian upbringing. Yes, we learned about the Easter Bunny bringing colorful baskets of eggs and candy to give to the children. I recall my brothers and sisters helping our mother draw simple designs on eggs and dying them in different colors to be hidden for us to find on Easter Morning.
Another tradition was waking early Easter morning to climb to the top of a hill and attend outside Easter Sunrise Services and later enjoying breakfast with the congregation. However, the tradition of baking paska bread was new to me! I learned about this Orthodox Easter tradition from my wife. She introduced me to making paska from her grandmother’s recipe. It is a tradition where everyone participates in kneading the dough, baking and then taking the loaves to the church to be blessed.
It seems every church and congregation celebrates Easter a little differently around the world. Ukrainians are orthodox in their traditions. Right before Easter they too have Lent – the most important and longest fast in Christianity. During Holy Week, many Ukrainians to go to their church with traditional food, delicacies, and Pysanky eggs in baskets to be blessed. On Easter day they exchange their Pysanky eggs with families and friends during festive banquets with the customary greeting “Христос воскрес!” “Christ is risen!”
The tradition of painting Easter eggs, Pysanka, is one of most interesting expressions of Ukrainian Folk Art. Its beginning goes back to antiquity. These ancient people developed myths about the egg as being the source of life, the sun and the universe in order to understand creation. Similar myths are found in many cultures around the world. Ukrainians still strongly adhere too many of these ancient traditions associated with the egg today.
Ukrainians believe the Pysanka egg possesses enormous power, not only in the egg itself because it harbors the nucleus of life and the symbolic designs and colors used on the egg are done in a specific manner, according to prescribed rituals. The intricately colored eggs were used for various social and religious occasions and were considered to be a good luck piece, a protector against evil, as well as, an omen of good.
Before coming to live in Ukraine I knew that all religions were banned under the communism. Therefore many Ukrainians are still not familiar with all things religious. In spite of past policies, religion has made a healthy comeback. In many ways Ukraine is like seeing America through a rear view mirror. Christianity in America has become more like the former USSR, while Ukraine has become more like what America used to be.