Easter Around the World: Ukraine & Russia

Today I am going to share some information I found on Easter in Ukraine and Russia. Since the countries share some similar traditions, I thought I would share them together. Last week we shared Easter in Guatemala. The main thing they share is their beautiful technique for egg decorating. In Russian books I have seen it called pysanky and in Ukraine they call it pisanki.

Ukrainskie pisanki
Source: By Carl Fleischhauer (Library of Congress employee[1])
( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Now many Waldorf schools (at least in the United States) teach the method to make these beautiful eggs. At least I know the Waldorf school Hazel went to would do this at a special open house and my nephew mentioned he made one at the Waldorf school he visited last week in North Carolina. It is done with a special stylus tool that has melted beeswax in it. The designs are drawn with the beeswax and then the egg is dipped into dye. The beeswax can be scraped off with more design and different colors.

My Source Books
In the Ukraine both the inside and outside of the house is carefully washed during Lent. If possible the family would get new clothes and shoes as well. The new clothes symbolize new life. During Lent meat and animal fats are no eaten for the entire forty days and milk, cheese, and oils are restricted for seven days before Easter Sunday. On Maundy Thursday red eggs are prepared for departed souls. Every church has a painting depicting Jesus' body in the tomb and they are displayed unframed on Passion Friday (Good Friday). The paintings are called the Plaschevnisia or the Holy Shroud. On Saturday  the Holy Shroud is adorned and the custom was to visit all the churches and pray to every tomb prepared. On Saturday night they return to the church in their finery and watch the closed doors of the main entrance to the church. The closed doors represent the sealed tomb. The clergy are dressed in bright gold vestments and carry service books and small crosses. The main celebrant holds a large golden cross and chants, "Christos Voskres" (Christ is Risen) three times and each word is repeated by the choir and the congregation. He knocks with his cross on the closed door and at the given time it opens representing the opening of Christ's tomb and His resurrection. The customary greeting on Easter Day (to Ascension) is "Christ is Risen!" and the response is "He is Risen Indeed!" but of course in their language. After the mass, pysanky are commonly exchanged. The gift of a decorated egg of any size is a sign of fondness for a person. With the gift exchange the friends will embrace and kiss one another's cheeks three times. Ukrainian girls like to make their cheeks rosy by rubbing them with a red-dyed krashanky (solid-colored hardcooked eggs).

To go with our study of Easter in Ukraine, we read The Birds' Gift: A Ukrainian Easter Story retold by Eric A. Kimmel. This is a wonderful story of a girl and her family and eventually her village take in birds when winter comes early. The villagers are rewarded in the spring with the first pysanky.

Tsarevich (Fabergé egg)-crop
Source: By FileTsarevich_(Fabergé_egg)+surprise.jpg: diaperderivative work: Franco aq (FileTsarevich_(Fabergé_egg)+surprise.jpg) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
In Russia, they celebrate the Orthodox Easter. During Lent they fast and do not eat meat. Icons are draped with embroidered sheets. Priests believe they should sit vigil and suffer for the same number of hours as Jesus was on the cross. Many families go to church on Saturday night with the service ending in the middle of the night. After the service they have their Easter feast. The feast usually is a roasted meat and plenty of Easter eggs. For dessert they have a sweet, creamy cheese called pashka covered with nuts and dried fruit and and Easter cake called kulich. When the tsars were in power the wealthy would eat sturgeon at Easter. It would be prepared poached in wine. They would often also eat caviar at Easter. On Easter Sunday eggs are given as gifts. Country people give hardboiled and painted eggs or carved wooden eggs. And the most famous Russian eggs are the Faberges eggs. The Faberges are a family of jewelers who made eggs of precious gems set in silver and gold for the wealthy and the tsars. Some of the Faberge eggs opened to reveal beautiful gifts inside like an eagle made of diamonds.
Easter cake Moscow2006
Kulich Source: By Bff (Own work) 
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
They celebrate Easter for a week. When people greet they give each other three kisses. The children play a game with their Easter eggs. They tap their egg against another player's egg. The first person who breaks an egg must give it to the other player.

To go with our look at Easter in Russia, we read two books. The first The Magic Babushka by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes is a wonderful story about a young girl, Nadia, who lives with her grandfather. Unfortunately Nadia has poor eyesight and cannot see details of things. Nadia longs to create pysanky like the other girls in her village, but her vision just makes it impossible. One day she frees a butterfly from a spider's web and the butterfly turns into an old grandmother. She realizes right away that the woman is the legendary Baba Babochka. Baba Babochka has a magic babushka that can grant wishes, but she has gone into hiding as a butterfly when a tsar wanted her to use her magic for evil. Baba Babochka grants Nadia a wish as long as it is for her alone and she never tells anyone about seeing her. Nadia wishes to have the pysanky of her dreams. She is given the magic babushka to make her wish possible. Nadia realizes the next morning as she looks at the beautiful eggs it was a silly wish. She hides them when she hears a knock at the door. A young man needs help with his injured horse. She tends to the horse and the young man finds the pysanky. He takes them to bring to his aunt the tsarina so he will not get in trouble for breaking her rule. His aunt loves the pysanky and sends for Nadia. She demands Nadia create new pysanky for her to prove she made the first ones. Nadia does not know what to do since her visions is still so bad, but with the help of Baba Babochka and the magic babushka she vision is improved and she can finally create all the designs in her imagination. Eventually she marries the prince (tsarina's nephew).

The second book is Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco. This is a tale of an old woman named Babushka. She always wins first prize at the Easter festival. She lives near Moscow. One day she finds a goose with a wounded wing. She takes the goose in and names her Rechenka. She nurses Rechenka back to health. One day Rechenka tries to fly again but in doing so she destroys all of Babushka's beautiful eggs. The next morning Rechenka has laid eggs of intricate designs and bright colors to replace them. While Babushka is at the Easter festival, Rechenka leaves to be on her own again, but she leaves one more egg behinds which hatches and the gosling becomes Babushka's companion. 

So that is our look at Easter in Ukraine and Russia. I would like to try to make a Ukrainian style egg and have seen a few easy craft methods in the various books. All of my sources for this post are in the books above. If you would like to see more Easter and multicultural posts check out:

1 comment:

  1. I would love a Russian Recepie on how to prepare Kulich for Easter.


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