Easter in Ukraine.
The feast of Christ's resurrection. In Ukraine, Easter is called Velykden (The Great Day).

The Week Before Ukrainian Easter

The Ukrainian Easter day is, actually, a culmination of a long trial of preparing for this beautiful holiday.
  • Willow Sunday. The Ukrainian Easter Sunday is preceded by a Willow Sunday, on which Ukrainians go to churches to bless willow branches – they serve as an analog of palm branches since this holiday is devoted to Jesus’ entering of Jerusalem.

The last Sunday before Easter (Palm Sunday) is called Willow Sunday (Verbna nedilia). On this day pussy-willow branches are blessed in the church. The people tap one another with these branches, repeating the wish: ‘Be as tall as the willow, as healthy as the water, and as rich as the earth.’ They also use the branches to drive the cattle to pasture for the first time, and then the father or eldest son thrusts his branch into the earth for luck.

  • Clean Thursday. The next significant day preceding the celebration of Ukrainian Easter is Thursday. It is called a Clean Thursday, because on this day Ukrainians traditionally clean their houses for them to be nice and tidy for the major celebration.
  • Passion Friday. A Passion Friday is the day when, according to the Orthodox believes, Christ was crucified. Ukrainians visit churches to be present at the evening service. The special Ukrainian Easter bread, paska, is also traditionally baked on this Friday before Easter.

Ukrainian Easter Celebration

The major event of the Ukrainian Ester is the night church service. Many people go to church in the evening to be present during the whole service – until early morning. At the same time, many prefer to come for the culmination of the service, in the morning.
People gather in the church for the Easter vigil till the very morning when priests bless the food believers brought.
At around 3-5 AM hundreds of people can be found around each Ukrainian church. The families stand in lines that make circles around the church building. Traditional Ukrainian Easter food is laid on the mats or towels on the ground in front of the people. Bread (paskas), eggs, meat and sausages are waiting to get blessed for the Easter dinner. . After that people go home to celebrate Easter with their families. If they meet other people on the way they say: "Christ is risen!" and these people should reply "Risen indeed".

Pysanky – Ukrainian Easter Eggs

Ukrainians have a bright and beautiful tradition of painting eggs for Easter. While some people simply paint them one color, others prepare masterpieces: traditional patterns, ornaments, and pictures painted on boiled eggs. Such decorated eggs are called “krashanky” (painted one color) or “pysanky” (colorful eggs with patterns and pictures). Eggs are also traditionally painted on Friday before Easter.
During the Easter season in Ukraine the cult of the dead is observed. The dead are remembered on Maundy Thursday and also during the whole week after Easter (called the ‘Week of the Nymphs’ [navskyi tyzhden], especially on the first Sunday following Easter Sunday (called Khomyna [Thomas's] or Providna [Seeing-off]). For the commemoration of the dead (//provody//) the people gather in the cemetery by the church, bringing with them a dish containing some food and liquor or wine, which they consume, leaving the rest at the graves.

Ukrainian Paska, or Easter Bread
The specially-baked Easter bread, called paska, hasgreat symbolic significance in Ukraine. The baker of the bread must keep her thoughts pure and the household must remain quiet for the bread to retain its fluffy texture while in the oven. It is customary to keep the baking of the paska a strictly family affair; neighbors or strangers are not permitted to enter the house while the paska is being prepared. In ancient times, the man of the house would stand guard at the door while the paska loaf was being made to prevent any intruders from casting the “evil eye” onto the bread and thus threatening the family’s prosperity for the coming year.
The paska bread, sometimes shown as having been baked in saucepans so that the shape is somewhat tall and cylindrical, is decorated with symbols welcoming springtime. While Christian symbols, like crosses, may decorate the paska loaf, many symbols are of pagan origins. Flowers, leaves, birds, and sun symbols are often formed out of dough and baked into the golden-brown crust of this Easter bread.
In some cases, three paska loaves may be baked at different times during the Easter season. The first one honors nature, the second the dead, and the third those on earth. These are not eaten until Easter Sunday, when the Easter feast is laid on the table.

Easter cake ('Kulich') and painted eggs ('Krashanki') are the symbols of Ukrainian Easter and obligatory food on the table this day. Kulich is baked from yeast dough in the form of cylinder. Krashanka is a boiled and painted egg. If you visit Ukraine on Easter holidays and have a Sunday meal in Ukrainian family, kids will surely involve you in their favorite Easter game: knocking the eggs - if you knock somebody’s egg and you egg is not broken - you are the winner.