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Easter

The Resurrection Mass was always eagerly awaited. In olden times a was held in the early morning before the rising of the sun. At that time in history all churches in Ukraine were built to face the East. When the Mass was ending and the priest first said "Chrystos Voskres" (Christ Has Risen), the doors of the church would be opened and the rays of the rising sun would envelop the faithful. Following the Mass the people greeted each other in the traditional way, by kissing each other three times. This is called "chrystosuvania"
The people would then stand outside the church with their baskets filled with the food which they had prepared for the blessing ceremony. A lit candle was always placed in the baskets which were decorated with aromatic herbs and periwinkle.

PASKA - Easter Ritual Bread . Paska baked by Lubow Wolynetz (The Ukrainian Museum) as seen on Martha Stewart, April 2000. The most honored Easter bread was the paska and the preparation and baking of paska was considered one of the most important tasks of the year. People believed that the future could be predicted, depending on how this holiday bread turned out. Every homemaker wanted her paska to be the best and the biggest, therefore while baking it she performed various magical gestures and used incantations.
The dough for the paska was kneaded in a trough which rested on a pillow so that the bread would be light. During the preparation the homemaker had to maintain pure thoughts. While the paska was in the oven no one was allowed to sit or make a loud noise for fear it would collapse in the oven. In some regions of Ukraine the man of the house stood guard in his front door lest someone enter and cast an evil spell while the paska was baking.
A successfully baked paska brought great joy to the family. Wrapped in a rushnyk (ritual cloth), or placed in a basket, the paska was carried to church by the master of the house to be blessed in a ceremony following the Resurrection Mass on Easter morning. Other foods such as cheese, butter, salt, pork fat, horse radish, eggs, pysanky (Ukrainian Easter egg), ham, sausages, as well as various seeds were also brought to church for the blessing. Immediately after the ceremony the family would hurry home to share the blessed paska and thus begin Easter breakfast.

The antiquity of the paska as a ritual bread is evidenced not only by the rituals performed during the preparations and baking but also by the decorations which adorned this holiday bread. The top of the paska was covered with symbolic signs made of dough such as a cross, solar signs, rosettes, leaves, pine cones and sometimes even birds and bees. Most of these decorations were remnants of an ancient pagan religion tied to the cult of the sun and bread.

The Easter basket is the pride and joy of the family. People judge the mistress of the house according to the way her Easter basket looks, what it contains, and how it is decorated. The basket should be lined with a newly embroidered serviette or with a white napkin. An embroidered serviette should be used to cover the basket. Very ambitious housewives have two embroidered serviettes - one for lining the basket and one for covering it.
Remember, the basket should contain only a sampling of the foods you are going to eat at Eastertime not the entire contents of the refrigerator.
The Easter basket should contain:
PASKA Place a candle into the center of the paska and light it when the priest begins the blessing ceremony.
BABKA, PYSANKY Easter eggs, new ones every year, KRASHANKY dyed eggs - variety of colors, but there must be a red one, EGGS hard boiled and peeled, SALT a small amount, BUTTER should be nicely shaped and decorated with whole cloves and placed on a small dish or on top of the cheese, CHEESE sweet cheese: mix farmer cheese with confectionery sugar, raisins, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Place on a dish and on top you can place the butter, HORSERADISH a piece of the root or prepared horseradish with beets, KOVBASA sausage - a small ring.
Tie a few willow branches to the handle of the basket with a red ribbon. Spring flowers and periwinkle can also be added. Do not use plastic flowers.

 
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