Sunday, March 31, 2013

Celebrating Easter

There are many firsts that we have missed with Cava, but there are so many more that we get to experience. Just this weekend, we got to watch him dye his first Easter eggs and then, this morning, receive his first Easter basket. When I asked him if he ever celebrated Easter in Ukraine, he shook his head, "No." He was overjoyed when I told him that we would be. His response, "Oh thank you, Papa, thank you."

Wanting to better understand how Ukrainians celebrated Easter to see if we could incorporate some of their traditions into our own, I went on-line and researched it. Here's what I found:

In Ukraine they begin observing Easter with "Shutkova Nedilia" or "Willow Sunday." This is their version of Palm Sunday. The willows represent the scourging of Christ and that is why they will tap someone with the willows and say:

Лоза б'є, 
Я не б'ю, 
від нині за тиждень, 
буде Великдень 


The willow is hitting, 
I’m not hitting, 
one week from today, 
it will be Easter.

From there, they begin Holy Week and start their preparations: house cleaning, cooking, baking, and making Pysanky. 

On Thursday, they celebrate Velykyi Chetver, Strasty Khrysta  or "Passion Thursday" to honor the Passion of Christ.

For Good Friday, the Church provides a  plashchenytsia, which represents the tomb of Christ. The traditional Ukrainian Easter bread, paska, is traditionally baked on the Friday before Easter. This is a big deal since each person wants their paska to be the biggest and the best. The top of the bread is covered in symbolic signs, like the cross.

Holy Saturday is usually when they have their Easter baskets blessed. The baskets contain a newly embroidered serviette or cloth, the paska, babka, pysanky, krashanky (eggs of different colors, although there must be at least one red one),  hard boiled eggs that are peeled, salt, butter decorated with cloves, cheese, horseradish (sometimes prepared with beets), and kovbasa (a ring of sausage). 

Cava's Easter basket contained none of those things because I could only imagine the disappointment he would have upon seeing that. Instead, he got chocolate (something he loves - as he has told us this many, many times), a remote control car (green, of course), a small stuffed Simba (because his favorite movie's The Lion King), and a Spiderman cup, t-shirt and puzzle (because, as he likes to remind us, he is Spiderman).

Cava loves getting gifts, no matter how small. He told me earlier this week that the first time he had ever gotten a present was when we brought a toy truck and Legos to the boarding school upon meeting him. So when he saw his Easter basket, he responded with a joyous, "Awesome! So cool! Thank you, thank you!" He quickly rushed over to Danelle and I to give us hugs and kisses. 

Since it was barely 6 a.m., we looked on bleary eyed and tired.

It didn't take Cava long to tear into the box of the remote control car like a Tazmanian devil. Once I put the batteries in it, he was racing that car all over the house and crashing into every piece of furniture we have. As he did, he kept repeating, "Really cool, Papa. Really cool."

Almost as quickly as he opened the box for the car, he had his Spiderman t-shirt on. Somehow I knew he would be wearing this to church for the Easter service.

Both he and Benjamin begged us to let them eat some of their candy and we told them they could have 2 pieces apiece this morning and then quickly added the addendum that this did not include the big chocolate bunnies.

While Cava was a regular Speed Racer with his new car, Benjamin sat quietly in his bed attempting a Rubik's Cube. Since Danelle and I wanted to go back to bed for a little while, I tried to convince Cava to turn the remote control car off and work on his Spiderman puzzle. That lasted all of 10 minutes before he was back behind the wheel and our house was the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

When I asked Cava what was his favorite thing that he got for Easter, he motioned to all of it.

After a breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls (and by homemade, I, of course, mean Pillsbury), we all got dressed and went to the 9:30 service. Just as I thought, Cava wore his Spiderman t-shirt. He also wore his new sneakers that we bought yesterday. Cava wanted these because they reminded him of his teacher, Mrs. W's new running sneakers. (Isn't it amazing the impact we, as adults, can have on children?) I was glad we found these since he was getting upset that none of the sneakers in his size lit up like the Lightning McQueen ones he had that he's outgrown.

For Ukrainians, Holy Week culminates in Velykden or "The Great Day." This is when they take part in religious ceremonies such as the ritual procession called "plashchenytsia" followed by a joyful mass that celebrates the resurrection of Christ. While we don't have ritual processions in our Baptist church, we did celebrate the resurrection of Christ. As Matthew 28:5-6 tells us, "The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay." 

Last night, I read to Cava from his children's picture Bible all about The Good News of Christ's death on a cross and resurrection so that he would have some, small understanding of the meaning of Easter.

After Mass, families share the foods that were blessed the day before. If they meet people on their way home, they greet them by saying, "Christ is risen," to which the other people reply, "Risen indeed!" Can you imagine if we greeted people like that here in this country?

Later, they have hahilky-vesnianky dances and games. 

One of the symbols of Easter for Ukrainians is their Easter cake called Kulich. This cake is baked from yeast dough in the form of a tower and typically has different candied fruits and spices. 

For anyone wondering, no, we didn't make a Kulich. Maybe next year. Does Pillsbury have one?

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