So, a three-day weekend offers an option of spending it following the Easter traditions, going out for picnics, or doing both. This year Orthodox Easter is celebrated on April 19. Now is a good time to remind ourselves what it’s all about.
Called Paskha in Russian, derived from the Greek name of the holiday which, in turn, is derived from Jewish Pesakh (Passover), and Velykden in Ukrainian, Easter or Resurrection Day is the main religious holiday in the Christian liturgical year. It is celebrated on the first Sunday following the spring’s full moon, or the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Catholic and Orthodox Easter celebrations usually fall on different days because most Orthodox countries use the Julian calendar, while Catholics use the Gregorian calendar for setting dates of changeable festivals like Easter. Easter comes at the end of the Great Lent – 7 weeks of strict fasting (meat, fish, eggs and milk are forbidden) and prayer, and therefore Easter Sunday is a time of joy and great feasts involving all the delicious foods which were off-limits for so long. According to the Ukrainian tradition, Thursday before Easter is called Clean Thursday. On this day the house has to be thoroughly cleaned and the main Easter treats – dyed eggs and Easter cakes – are to be made.
Friday is the day of prayer and the strictest day of Lent – you’re not supposed to eat anything all day. On Saturday night services begin in churches. Parishioners take baskets full of paskas (Easter cakes), eggs and other festive treats to have them blessed in church. The blessing can be done until noon on Sunday. On Sunday morning people greet each other by kissing three times and saying “Khrystos Voskres!” (Christ has Risen!). The right answer to that is “Voistinu Voskres!” (Truly Risen!). Don’t be surprised if you have to repeat it three times – this is also a part of the tradition that symbolizes the Holy Trinity. If you go to western Ukraine, you’re also likely to keep hearing these greeting for three days – for the same reasons.