Easter commemorates the resurrection of Christ.
Easter matins begins with the ringing of the church bells on Saturday at midnight. The resurrection church service begins with a procession around the outside of the church. The church lights are dimmed, symbolizing the closed tomb of Christ. The priest leads the procession and circles the church three times. This is also symbolic of the journey that the myrrh-bearing women took during the early hours on Easter Sunday morning. When the women recognize the Saviour, the church bells began to ring.
The priest will greet the worshippers with the traditional words “Xристос Воскрес” (Christ is Risen) and they will respond with “Воістину Воскрес” (He is indeed Risen). The church doors are open and the Easter service will proceed. Most churches today do not have the service on the Saturday night.
At my church, Easter Sunday service is preceded by the blessing of the Easter basket. The Easter basket contains specially prepared foods that include hard-boiled eggs, meat products such as ham and garlic sausage, butter, cheese (cottage cheese, cheddar, etc.), fresh horseradish, a shaker of salt, traditional breads that include paska and baba, as well as the beautifully decorated pysanky. It is a custom to exchange the colourful eggs with the Easter greeting.
Triangles on eggs symbolize trios such as air, fire and wind, and most recently the Holy Trinity.
Bread to Ukrainians is one of the holiest of all foods. Two types traditionally found in the Easter basket are paska and baba. Paska is a large, round loaf made of white flour, usually decorated with a cross at the centre along with other ornamentation such as rosettes or pine cones. At the time of the blessing, a candle is placed in the centre of the paska representing Christ, “the light of the world.” Paska means passover, as in Christ’s passing over from death to life.
The baba is cylindrical in shape and is a rich cake bread. Its name is considered by some to mean “blessed mother”. Both breads are meant to remind Ukrainians of the true “living bread” that nourishes the soul.
Immediately after the church service, the worshippers will return home to share the Easter breakfast of blessed food.
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