Updated: Dec 5, 2021
From Paska bread to willow branches, Ukrainian Easter is a vibrant and important celebration that marks the resurrection of Christ. Check out this blog post to learn more about our traditions.
Ukrainian Easter is one of the biggest events in the country, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Preparations for Easter begin two months in advance with the Lenten fast.
Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic Easter
Ukrainian Easter falls later in the year than Western Christian Easter celebrations as Ukrainians follow the Julian calendar. Several other countries also celebrate Orthodox Easter later in the year, such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, and Romania.
Вербна Неділя (Willow Sunday) marks the beginning of the Easter preparations in Ukraine. In western countries this day is known as Palm Sunday, but instead of palm leaves Ukrainians use pussy willow branches. After the service, it is customary to ‘tap’ one another with the willow branches to encourage good health. This act is accompanied by the phrase:
Буд’ великі як верба, здорові ’як вода, богаті як земля.
Be as healthy as big as a willow, as healthy as water, as rich as the earth.
According to tradition, the willow is then placed in the household until it is later placed in the Easter Basket in preparation for the blessing. In some regions, some of the blessed branches are planted in the garden by the father or eldest son.
Велікодн iя Пятниця (Good Friday) is a solemn day in the country, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Traditionally, this day of mourning encompasses a strict fast with no meat or dairy permitted. Moreover, no work can be done.
Велика субота (Holy Saturday) marks the day in which the Easter baskets are blessed by priests as part of the Mass. At Huddersfield Ukrainian Club, we have celebrated this important tradition as a community for over 70 years.
You can find out how to make your own Easter basket with our blog post here.
Пасхальна неділя: Easter Sunday
Families come together to celebrate on Easter Sunday by eating the contents of their blessed Easter Baskets. The Paska, eggs, cheese, and meat are enjoyed as the breaking of the forty day Lenten fast.
The greeting Христос воскрес (Christ is Risen) replaces the traditional Добрий день, to which one responds Воістину Воскрес (Indeed, he has risen).
Unlike many western countries, Easter treats such as chocolate eggs and bunnies are not commonly found in Ukrainian celebrations. As times change, however, you may find the odd Easter Bunny poking out of an Easter basket!
Respect is of great importance in Ukraine, with families commemorating absent friends in the week after Easter celebrations. In a religious ceremony, families gift food and small items to their ancestors in cemeteries, whilst accompanied by a priest who blesses the graves.
Celebrating this year:
For those wishing to attend, the next Ukrainian Catholic Easter Mass, including the blessing of the Easter baskets, will take place on Saturday 1st May at St Patrick’s Church, Huddersfield. The service will begin at 2 p.m.
Do you have any Ukrainian Easter traditions passed down in your family? Let us know in the comments below!