One of the most joyous holidays in the Carpathians is celebration of Easter – the biggest Christian holiday.
On Palm Sunday at the beginning of Easter Week, each family collects a small bunch of willow branches which are blessed by the priest during Sunday Mass. After they are hanged at home and they are believed to have healing properties. On the eve of Easter Saturday, after 40 days of fasting everybody attends a special liturgy in church.
Bread can be called a major feature of the Velykden’s meal. Paska, the central Velykden ritual bread, is made with yeast, though there were times when bread used to be unleavened.
Pasky (plural from Paska) are made in quantities that should be sufficient for the family, friends and relatives and for possible guests, several days before Velykden, but no later than Thursday, before Easter Sunday, because Friday (Strasna P’yatnytsya — Passion Friday) before Easter Sunday is a day when no work should be done.
When firewood was lit in the oven, a willow twig, which was blessed on Palm Sunday, was thrown in it (what in English is called Palm Sunday, in Ukrainian is Verbna Nedilya, that is “Willow Sunday”; palms, unknown in Ukraine, were substituted for willows). When Pasky were being made, no one was allowed to make any noise in the house, or swear, or talk too loudly. The one who makes Pasky should be wearing a clean shirt and should ask God’s blessing for the success of Pasky baking. A wooden shovel, made especially for taking Pasky out of the oven, was used to make the sign of the cross over the stove, doors and windows, with the following words uttered, “Sacred bread — into the house, the evil — out!”
The oldest and most interesting feature is the Easter egg – even pre-Christian symbol of the sun, life, immortality, rebirth, joy and happiness. The Christian tradition of Easter egg became a symbol of faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Besides colouring Easter eggs, everybody prepares traditional dishes, samples of which are taken to church and blessed on Sunday Morning Mass. Each family starts their Ester Breakfast with those dishes after returning from church. On Easter Sunday the church bells are echoing throughout the mountains, proclaiming the Christian news of great joy.
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