Sunday, April 5, 2015

Ukrainian Easter (Пасха) Traditions

Luba's Paska bread and colored eggs and with friends at one of her many outdoor meals (center and lower right). A church (lower left) in Yvepretoria,"Christ is Risen," one of many churches of many faiths in that beautiful Crimean city. Upper row: Luba's oft-used tea set; her New Year's Eve dinner table (she's the best cook); Luba, Luda and Iryna at Berdyansk beach near Mariupol. 
Pysanky, yahoo image, a wax-resist
process and painted.
It's Easter 2015 and I'm remembering my host mom Luba in Starobelsk and Orthodox Easter (I think it's called Velykden, loosely transliterated). Luba lives in a lovely house surrounded by gardens on Panfelova street. Luba introduced me to my first Ukrainian Orthodox Easter (it's usually a week or two later than the Christian holiday). She baked a special Easter bread, "Paska" (Паска), and colored in bright red the fresh eggs she had gathered from her chickens (who clucked happily outside my bedroom window).  No time for pysanky, those colorful Ukrainian Easter eggs. Fortunately, when my group of PCVs was in training in Chernigov, a host mom invited us to join her and her kids in painting some eggs. It's harder than it looks! Not my talent, but it was a new experience, and fun.

Luba took out a pretty straw basket and filled it with her cakes and eggs, added a few icons and a bottle of vodka, and covered it all with a pretty embroided cloth. We then went to the big Cathedral near downtown, which was crowded with people from all over the region who had done the same thing.  The priest, using twigs of pussy willow, a first sign of spring, sprayed water on us and the baskets. Some people brought their own willow branches to be blessed.  There was a tradition about tapping people on the head with these branches afterward, but I don't remember the details. I think it was for good luck. Does someone else remember? There was no service, no speaking. Just the spray of water. Then we went back home, blessed, and had a great meal.

Happy spring and glorious rebirth to all.
Luba out in the garden, doing what she loves best. Her garden in spring.
Some buildings in Starobelsk, beautifiul architecture that most people take for granted, including Luba's house, upper right. Pictured are the university, Lenin Park, the Cultural Center, a smaller church, the historical society, the Biblioteca, various statues, a relief at St. Nicholas, Children's House of Culture, some pretty homes. These inspired the Starobelsk calendar I did with the help of English Club friends and Nik (designer) and Maria.
St. Nicholas Church, in center of Starobelsk,
 taken by Dima, an English Club member. So lovely.
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