New Year in Ukraine
Easter is the most important holiday in the Ukrainian church calendar.
It is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
It is called “Velykden”, meaning “The Great Day”. Another name for it is “Paska”.
Ukrainian Easter Celebrations
Canadians of Ukrainian heritage celebrate Easter by decorating eggs and making a special bread. The eggs – called pysanky – from the Ukrainian word “to write” – are made by writing on an egg with wax.
The egg is dipped in a dye and more wax is put on – the wax protects the egg from the next colour. You will see how it is done below.
Here are some pysanky written by Natalie Kononenko and Tania Osadca.
Click on one to turn it.
Easter Egg Symbols
An egg is magic. It looks like a ball. It does not look alive. But when a chicken sits on an egg and it hatches, a bird, a little chick comes out.
Eggs are connected to spring. Chickens start to lay eggs in spring. This means new life.
Easter is a festival of spring and new life. When Easter egg designs were first made, most people lived on farms. Many symbols are important to farming and the things that are needed to make plants and animals grow.
Here are some beautiful pysanky from the Collection of Natalia Talanchuk in Edmonton.
Click on one to turn it.
Here Are the Steps to Make a Simple Pysanka
This is what you need: yellow, green, orange, red, and black dyes.
A candle, a kistka, wax, and an egg.
Lines are drawn on the egg with wax.
The egg is put in dye.
More lines are drawn.
Finally, all the wax is removed by holding the egg near a candle flame and the melted wax is wiped off with a paper towel.
Here is a short video showing how to use the kistka and how to remove the wax.
Writing a Pysanka
Below are videos of each step in writing a pysanka.
Click on one to turn it around.
Colouring an Easter Egg
Writing a pysanka is not like painting on an egg.
You need to use a candle, hot wax, and very strong dyes (coloured liquids).
This is not safe to do in school and it is not safe to do it by yourself.
But you can colour pictures of eggs with markers or crayons or you can go to this page on your computer:
Making Ukrainian Easter Bread – Paska
Here is a video of Anna Mayko of Edmonton making pasky.
The video is only 2 minutes long, but it actually took 6 hours.
Easter in Ukraine
Before Easter people fast for 40 days.
When people fast, they do not eat meat.
They do not drink milk or eat things made from milk like cheese.
The fast before Easter is called “Great Lent”.
The Sunday before Easter is called Pussy Willow Sunday.
It is called Palm Sunday in Canada, but in Ukraine there are no palms. Palms do not grow. Pussy willows make buds before other plants. They are a sign of spring.
People bless pussy willows in church. Then they tap each other with pussy willows so that they will blossom like the plant.
The week before Easter is called Great Week or Holy Week.
People work hard to get ready for Easter.
They bake Easter breads. One type of bread is called a paska. The other type is called a babka.
People dye eggs for Easter.
An egg that is one colour is called a krashanka. People eat this egg.
People also make eggs with designs. They write on the egg with wax, then dye the egg. The egg with a design is called a pysanka. A pysanka is given as a gift.
The Thursday before Easter is called Clean Thursday in Ukraine. All work must be finished on this day.
The Friday before Easter is called Passion Friday. It is called Good Friday in Canada.
People do not work. In the evening they go to church.
They try to bring a burning candle all the way home from church. They try not to let the flame go out. If they do, they make a cross with the candle flame on the door.
On Saturday evening people go to church again. This is a midnight mass.
People walk around the church.
Then they say “Christ is risen.” The answer is “He has risen indeed.”
People bless Easter baskets on Easter Sunday morning.
In the basket they put Easter bread (paska or babka). They put krashanky, sausage, butter, cottage cheese, horse radish, salt, and a candle.
They eat this food for breakfast. This is the first time they can have meat. This is called breaking the fast.
In Ukraine there is no Easter egg hunt for children.
Children play games with eggs. Two children hit their eggs against each other. When an egg cracks, that person loses. He must give his egg to the other child.
People remember the dead.
After Easter they go to the cemetery. They leave Easter food on the grave of each family member who has died.
They eat some food at the grave. This is like eating with dead ancestors.
Easter in Ukraine 2015
Easter is one of the most important holidays in Ukraine. It is celebrated in a family circle.
Below are the pictures from Easter in Rivne in April 2015. We express our sincere gratitude to a Ukrainian photographer Daria Gatska for providing photographs.
Ivan Kupalo – Midsummer Festival
In many Ukrainian villages, and cities, Ivan Kupalo is celebrated in early July.
This festival is not a religious festival so it took place even during the time of the Soviet Union.
Water and fire are important in this festival.
As you will see in the video, young girls place wreaths or crowns which have a lit candle into water.
It is believed that the direction the wreath floats will be where the future husband of that girl lives.
The fire is lit and when it has burnt down couples jump over it for good luck.
The festival started at 10:00 pm so the video does not have much colour. Below are some photos.
Ivan Kupalo in 2013
Ivan Kupalo is celebrated widely in Ukraine. It is very popular among children and adults.
Nowadays, people not only keep the old traditions, but they have also added new elements to the celebration.
During the festival, people can now attend different workshops that take place before the celebration itself.
The following photos were taken in Rivne region in 2013. The photos were kindly donated by the Ukrainian photographer Daria Gatska.
Christmas is a very important holiday in Ukraine.
It takes place on January 6th.
Before Christmas Ukrainians do not eat meat or things made from milk for 40 days.
The evening before Christmas is called “Holy Evening”.
There are 12 foods made without meat or milk.
Semeniuk family will tell you about Christmas traditions in a typical Ukrainian family.
What other dishes do Ukrainian families eat? Watch the video to find out more.
The table is also set in a certain way.
A special dish called “kutia” is cooked. It is made from wheat, poppy seeds, honey, walnuts, and fruit. This is how it looks like.
Kutia is eaten in a certain way. Semeniuk family will show you how.
Christmas is a family holiday. The family gets together on this day to celebrate. When the first star is seen in the sky, the supper begins.
The father says a prayer.
In the evening, children dress up and go from house to house and sing Christmas carols, “koliadky”. Children usually get candy, cookies, or money.
Adults also like to dress up and sing carols.
They are often invited by a host or a hostess to eat kutia or drink uzvar.