This Easter, our thoughts and prayers are with Ukraine.
At Just Helpers we are working to support our Helper Olia, who is from Ukraine, at this very difficult time. I asked Olia how her family would usually be celebrating Easter.
“Easter in Ukraine is a very big celebration, second only to Christmas. In Ukrainian we call Easter ‘Velykden’ which means ‘Great Day’. We celebrate Easter in the Julian Calendar, so it will be the 24th April in Ukraine. As I now live in London, I celebrate Easter twice!
Many of the traditions around Easter in Ukraine as the same as Christian traditions in other parts of the world, but we have some which are particular to our folklore.
We start preparing the week before Easter, in Holy Week, which is the week following Palm Sunday. The Thursday of Holy Week is called “Clean Thursday” where we clean the house inside and out. We go to the cemetery to clean the graves of our loved ones, and to plant flowers. We also make painted, decorated eggs called Pysanka.
We prepare the special food which we will eat at Easter. Food is a very important part of our celebrations. We bake a sweet bread called “Paska” which is similar to panattone. This is part of our Easter basket, along with eggs, butter cheese and salt The contents of the Easter basket is different depending on the traditions of the village where you live.
Food is particularly important at Easter in Ukraine because traditionally people fast during Lent. Nowadays, for many people that might mean giving up meat, but in the past they would also have avoided eating eggs and cheese as well.
On Good Friday, many people will fast all day. They will go to church, read the Bible and pray.
On Saturday, everyone takes their Easter basket to the church to be blessed, but we can’t start eating it until Sunday!
On Easter Sunday, the whole family go to Mass together. We greet each other with “Christ is Risen!” and we will use this greeting when we meet friends and family for a month after Easter.
After church we have a big family feast and we are finally able to enjoy the treats in our Easter basket.
Children will get together in the church yard to play Spring games, such as Hide and Seek. They have “egg battles”, knocking their painted eggs together until they break. The last egg to break is the winner!
The Monday after Easter is a day for remembering family and friends who have died, with a special service in church. This day is also known as “Wet Monday” when children pour water over each other and themselves . In the cities, there are organised events so that children can have fun with water games, and the adults can stay dry!
Easter in London
I have lived in London since August 2020, and I follow many of these traditions with my family here. We make an Easter basket, and take it to be blessed in church. The children have egg battles and throw water around on Wet Monday – fortunately many of our neighbours are Ukrainian so they understand!
My family in Ukraine
This Easter of course I will be thinking of my family back home. My family are safe for now, but the war is getting closer. They live in Western Ukraine, not far from the border with Poland. Recently an empty factory just 7 kilometres was hit by a missile.
We feel very helpless so far away, but we need to stay strong, and provide support in whatever way we can.
We are very grateful for the help being offered by the British people, and we are praying that the war will end soon, and Ukraine will be able to rebuild.”
Olia’s charity of choice is UNICEF.