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05 May. 2024

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How did Ukrainians celebrate Easter in ancient times and which customs have been forgotten?

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How did Ukrainians celebrate Easter in ancient times and which customs have been forgotten?

Easter in Ukraine is not just a religious holiday, it is a real celebration of life, spring and renewal. This day carries centuries-old traditions and customs, some of which can be found today, but most of which our generation has forgotten. Find out how the ancestors of Ukrainians celebrated Easter and why preparations for the holiday lasted throughout Holy Week

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This year, Ukrainians and all Christians of the Eastern rite celebrate Easter on 5 May. While today's Easter customs consist of baking Easter cakes, colouring eggs and going to church to have the Easter set blessed, in ancient times this holiday had not only a religious meaning but also marked the end of winter, the return of warmth and fertility. Here's how our ancestors' customs differed from ours.


In general, most of the traditions that have not survived to this day were related to everyday life. 


Customs during Holy Week


In the old days, before the culmination of the holiday, the owners had to clean their homes and clear everything of winter dirt. And Thursday was considered to be the frontier of household chores. 


People started the week by covering their houses with clay and whitewashing the walls. The floor was necessarily covered with yellow and red clay. Tables, benches, windows, and doors were thoroughly washed, and everything was put away and put away, because after this "consecration" no one touched the cleaning for at least two weeks.


People also washed almost everything in the house before Thursday. They also cleaned the barns. Ukrainians also prepared their best outfits for the holiday itself - traditional embroidered shirts and beautiful decorations, including wreaths, which people liked to golden.


Thursday was the first day of the Easter holidays, and the report began on that day. According to the Bible, this is the day of Christ's crucifixion and torment. In the evening, people went to church because a special service was held there - the Passion of Christ. On this day, a candle is blessed in the church. It was prepared by hand - knotted.


In the days leading up to Easter, our ancestors would prepare food.




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How did they bake Easter cakes and dye eggs?


Baking Easter cakes was one of the key moments of preparation for Easter. In the western regions of Ukraine, special attention was paid to the size of this festive bread, trying to bake it as large as possible. This was due to the fact that a large loaf of Easter bread symbolised the family's prosperity and wealth.


In Ukraine, it was not customary to decorate Easter cakes with white sugar icing. Easter breads were decorated with various symbolic patterns that reflected various aspects of life and faith. For example, Easter cakes were decorated with crosses made of dough to symbolise patience, cuckoo birds with folded wings to symbolise longevity, and braids and ears to symbolise the harvest. To a large extent, this symbolic approach to decorating Easter cakes has its roots in the traditional decoration of Easter eggs, which were also decorated with various patterns that have a deep symbolic meaning.


Speaking of Easter eggs, some dyeing traditions have survived to this day. For example, nowadays Ukrainians also like to dye Easter eggs with onion husks, which gives the shells a brown monochrome colour.


By the way, we told you that people usually organise egg-beating competitions these days, but Ukrainian Easter eggs were originally intended for something else entirely. This is a work of art that is unique in different regions of the country and is considered a kind of symbol for believers. We wrote about it in more detail here.


Other Easter customs 


An amazing custom known as "cuckooing" has survived to this day in some villages of the Hutsul region. Children go to visit relatives and neighbours within their village and receive special gifts from adults - a pysanka (a decorated egg) with a kukuts (a bun) or a pysanka with a cuckoo (a baked figure). 


In exchange for these gifts, children say "prostibe" and wish for forgiveness and absolution for the deceased relatives of the gift-givers. This custom not only connects children with their cultural heritage and traditions, but also strengthens the connection between generations and reminds them of the importance of forgiveness and commemoration of ancestors in Ukrainian culture.


We remind you! In Ukraine, Orthodox and Catholics celebrate Easter on completely different dates in 2024, despite the country's transition to a new church calendar. Read our article to find out what affects the calculation of Easter and why these two faiths still have different dates.


Want to know more? Read the latest news and useful materials about Ukraine and the world in the News section.




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