Христос Воскрес! Воістину воскрес!

Христос Воскрес! Воістину воскрес!

  • Michael Cholod
  • May 7th, 2024

This past Sunday was Easter in Ukraine, the year’s most important religious holiday. Starting at midnight, church bells began calling the faithful to celebrate Christ’s return from the dead and ascension to heaven. Easter Sunday is a day to relax with friends & family, take a walk in the park and greet everyone with a resounding Христос Воскрес! (Christ has risen!). Invariably, everyone responds Воістину воскрес! (Truly he has risen!).

A basket of bounty

Part of the Ukrainian Easter tradition is to fill a woven basket full of food and drink as an offering to celebrate Christ and ask for his blessing for a bountiful harvest in the coming year. The most important item in the basket is Paska, a loaf of sweet bread full of raisins and dried fruit that symbolises the body of Christ. The Paska in Western Ukraine is often a work of art with bread braids on top resembling rope or flowers. In Eastern Ukraine, Paska is a plain round loaf with delicious, sweet icing on top.

Other Ukrainian Easter basket essentials are Pysanky, the beautifully decorated colourful eggs that symbolize life, the sun and Christ’s resurrection. Salt and a bottle of wine are also included to represent prosperity and health, with the wine symbolising the blood of Christ. Everything’s wrapped in an elegant, handmade white cloth embroidered with religious symbols and markings from your home region.

The bells are ringing

People of all ages sporting beautiful linen Vyshyvanky, the famous embroidered Ukrainian shirts & dresses, or green army fatigues can be seen walking with baskets in hand on their way to the nearest church. At church one can attend a famous five-hour Orthodox Easter mass, or simply buy a couple of beeswax candles and light them to remember lost relatives and pray for a peaceful and bountiful year ahead.

After visiting church, everyone waits patiently outside with their baskets in front of them for the priest to emerge and bless them and their bounty with holy water and prayers for the risen Christ and a bountiful new year ahead.

When in Ukraine…

As a Canadian of Ukrainian heritage, I felt compelled to embrace the traditions of my people. After pretending to sleep through the twice hourly ringing of the church bells from the convent directly outside my window, I got up and went in search of my own Easter basket. I found Paska at the local bakery which conveniently came in a paper bag that was a great substitute for a woven basket. The good folks at Hotel Bursa leant me a saltshaker and boiled me 3 eggs which I did my best to decorate with a couple of markers. I’m never far from a bottle of wine so with my easter bag/basket sorted, I walked a block to one of the five churches within spitting distance and had my bounty blessed.

Religious traditions like Easter are not as popular as they once were and don’t carry the same symbolic importance, but in a country at war it’s important to revive traditions that make you unique, and in Ukraine that means Easter. Blessing your basket is one thing but spending the day around a dinner table or in a park eating that bounty with friends and family is what reminds everyone what it means to be Ukrainian and why it is important to fight for it!

Slava Ukraini! Heroiam Slava!