Easter is the most important religious holiday of the year. While Byzantine Ukrainians share similar beliefs with their fellow Christians, they also practise a number of different customs. For example, Ukrainians who follow the Julian calendar celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 12th this year.
On Thursday, April 9th, students of the Ukrainian Heritage Language program at St. Ann CES (Hamilton) led a special Easter prayer service before the greater community and guests.
At the beginning of the service, students Asha Bajus-Harrison (Gr. 5) and Jessica Barton (Gr. 5) presented Easter breads - an honourable Ukrainian custom - to Mr. Jerry Creedon (Faith Animator), Mrs. Mary Anilowski (International Languages Supervisor), and Miss Lisa St. Aubin (Assistant to the Principal).
Through expressions of prayer, story, and song, students educated the community of their Ukrainian Easter traditions, including those surrounding faith, food, and art.
On Easter Sunday, Ukrainians attend a Divine Liturgy in which Easter eggs and other dishes are blessed. The most solemn moment comes when the priest proclaims, “Khrystos Voskres!” (“Christ is Risen!”), whereby the people respond, “Voyistynu Voskres!” (“Indeed He is Risen!”) The people walk around the church three times. Then, begins the blessing of ritual Easter foods: paska (Easter bread), babka (sweet bread), cheese, butter, ham, horseradish, kolbassa, green onion, beets, boiled eggs, and coloured eggs. Women place these foods in a basket decorated with embroidered cloths, candles, and flowers. Later on, families enjoy a meal of the blessed Easter foods.
“Pysanky” - Ukrainian Easter eggs decorated with traditional Ukrainian designs - are also placed in the basket. The art of making pysanky is a holy, ritual task for the traditional Ukrainian artist. A special tool called a “kistka” is used to melt beeswax and write on the eggs. The kistka is the pen and the beeswax is the ink. Each colour is waxed and dyed until the entire design is created on the surface of the egg. The wax is then removed, a protective finish applied, and the yolk of the egg is emptied. The eggs are shared with others as an expression of friendship, good will, and love.
Anilowski and Creedon found the prayer service “wonderful” and “touching.”