Христос воскрес! The night of the Orthodox Easter

Today we celebrate Paskha (Easter) – the biggest and the most important religious holiday in Orthodox Christianity. In Ukrainian language it is called “The Great Day” (“Великдень”). And it is really the greatest day of the whole year. I like to celebrate it and I’m always looking forward to it.

(taken from here)

I am not a very religious person, I don’t follow the Christian rules, don’t keep the fast and not well informed about other Orthodox holidays. I visit churches only as a tourist and I like them from architectural point of view. But one day (actually night) per year I always attend a service at some church. This day is Easter of course.

As far as I remember myself my grand-dad always took me to the church for the Easter. We woke up about 4 am, took a basket with kulitchi (cakes), eggs and so on, went to bless them to the church nearby, stayed there for not a long time and came back home. I grew up. Now I go to the church with my friends for the Easter service every year. It starts with a long ringing of bells and the religious procession. It’s my favorite part. I don’t know why but I love so much these church bells. I feel it with all my soul and it’s one of the best feelings I ever had in my life. Then the service continues in the church. About 3 am there is another procession outside: people stand around the church with their baskets and with candles, a priest go around and sprinkle them (people and baskets:)) with holy water. It depends of the priest, but usually you get almost completely wet after this :) Then the wet and happy people go home to sleep. But the service continues and the priests make few more processions.

the Easter night

I go home after the first blessing. This time I was at the cathedral in the center so I had to take a subway. It is the only day when the public transportation works the whole night. So many people there after the service, almost like during the rush hours! And everybody is with the baskets :) I was happy that it is over and I can go home. It is very tiresome and stressful to stand for three hours. After this I feel good because of the holiday and I feel bad because my back and legs hurt just awfully. I even think every time that I will not do it anymore but the next year if somebody proposes me to go to the church I answer “yes, of course!”. Surprisingly a lot of people go to the church and stand the whole mass. There are also a lot of youth and children.

I have to say that I don’t know almost anything about the services at the church. But every time I listen to it and notice something new for me. The last year I got to know that they use other languages during one part of the service (like Greek, Latin, English etc). This time I heard the Creed and was very proud of myself that I can recognize it :) Maybe the next year I could already sing something, but I doubt.

Sunday morning people start to call or to meet to congratulate each other with the holiday. This day instead of the usual greetings they say “Христос воскрес!” – Christ is risen! And the answer is “Воистину воскрес” – In truth risen. People give cakes and colored eggs to each other. At our home we make a lot of Paskha cakes and eat them for a week or two. I love them and I can eat it as a normal meal three times per day or even more. It’s always so pity when they finish coz no one do it more than once per year. So my Paskha cakes time has started today!!

this year Paskha cakes that I will eat soon :)

Paskha cakes from some other year


Maslenitsa 2012 in Koropovy Khutora, Kharkiv region

On the pre last day of Maslyana (Butter) week there was a big celebration near the village Koropovy Khutora, about 50 km from Kharkov. The weather wasn’t very nice that day, but we decided to go to have a look there. As we don’t have a car it was a little bit difficult to reach the place, but we took a bus to Zmiyov then there was another bus specially for guests of the celebration, and in one and half hour we finally arrived.

There were a lot of people, several thousands. The main thing was of course a huge effigy of Maslenitsa.

the main Maslenitsa effigy

I will not describe everything. The celebration was as it should be – with a lot of fun, music, competitions, fights, games and food.

Gipsy music band on a big stage

national folklore band

one of traditional fights

kind of Ukrainian khata (house) and women in traditional costumes

Every regional center had its own tent in national Ukrainian style with some food, drinks and Maslenitsa effigies. It was strange that almost near every tent there was a barbecue with shashlyk though according to Christian tradition it is already forbidden to eat meet during this week.  As I always say we are more pagans than Christians, and it is more important just to celebrate some holiday than to follow Christian rules.

tents and effigies

Anyway Maslenitsa is just a lot of fun and pancakes)))

table with food :)

something made from pancakes, vareniki, pies

again food: pancakes, vareniki...

and some food...

In the end of the celebration all the effigies were burned. As they were made from straw they burned too fast.

burning Maslenitsa effigies

burning big Maslenitsa effigy

After burning it everybody wanted to go home. As usual nothing was organized well: there were too many people, too many cars, but not enough buses and the roads were too narrow. So we had to spend one more hour near a big fire eating last pancakes and drinking tea before we could leave Koropovy Khutora.

So in total we spent more that 3 hours for the way and the same time enjoying the ‘party’. But I’m glad that we came there, it was my first real celebration of Maslenitsa somewhere outside the city.

Maslenitsa: Pancake week in Russian and Ukrainian tradition

This week is a Pancake week called Maslenitsa. Every year it is celebrated more and more. We like our old traditions)))

To describe this holiday I take some parts of Wikipedia article.

“Maslenitsa (Russian: Ма́сленица, Ukrainian: Масниця, also known as Butter Week, Pancake week or Cheesefare Week), is a Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian religious and folk holiday. It is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent—that is, the seventh week before Paskha (Easter). In 2012 Maslenitsa is celebrated from February 20 to February 26.

Maslenitsa has its origins in both pagan and Christian traditions. In Slavic mythology, Maslenitsa is a sun festival, celebrating the imminent end of the winter.

On the Christian side, Maslenitsa is the last week before the onset of Great Lent. During Maslenitsa week, meat is already forbidden to Orthodox Christians. It is the last week during which milk, cheese and other dairy products are permitted, leading to its other name of “Cheese-fare week” or “Pancake week”. During Lent, meat, fish, dairy products and eggs are forbidden. Furthermore, Lent also excludes parties, secular music, dancing and other distractions from the spiritual life. Thus, Maslenitsa represents the last chance to partake of dairy products and those social activities that are not appropriate during the more prayerful, sober and introspective Lenten season.

The most characteristic food of Maslenitsa is bliny (pancakes), popularly taken to symbolize the sun. Round and golden, they are made from the rich foods still allowed by the Orthodox tradition: butter, eggs and milk.

Maslenitsa also includes snowball fights, sledding, riding on swings and plenty of sleigh rides. In some regions, each day of Maslenitsa had its traditional activity: one day for sleigh-riding, another for the sons-in-law to visit their parents-in-law, another day for visiting the godparents, etc. The mascot of the celebration is usually a brightly dressed straw effigy of Lady Maslenitsa, formerly known as Kostroma.

As the culmination of the celebration, on Sunday evening, Lady Maslenitsa is stripped of her finery and put to the flames of a bonfire. Any remaining blintzes are also thrown on the fire and Lady Maslenitsa’s ashes are buried in the snow (to “fertilize the crops”).

 Sunday of Forgiveness

The last day of Cheesefare Week is called “Forgiveness Sunday”, indicating the desire for God’s forgiveness that lies at the heart of Great Lent. At Vespers on Sunday evening, all the people make a poklon (prostration) before one another and ask forgiveness, and thus Great Lent begins in the spirit of reconciliation and Christian love. Another name for Forgiveness Sunday is “Cheesefare Sunday,” because for devout Orthodox Christians, it is the last day on which dairy products may be consumed until Paskha. Fish, wine and olive oil will also be forbidden on most days of Great Lent. The day following Cheesefare Sunday is called Clean Monday, because everyone has confessed their sins, asked forgiveness, and begun Great Lent with a clean slate.

 Modern Times

During Soviet times, Maslenitsa, like all the other religious holidays, was officially not celebrated. However, it was widely observed in families without its religious significance, just as an opportunity to prepare pancakes with all sorts of fillings and coverings and to eat them with friends. After Perestroika, the outdoor celebrations resumed, although they were seen by some as an artificial restoration of a dead tradition. Many Russians have returned to practising Christianity, however, so they are reviving the tradition.”

I would say that now the Ortodox tradition is not so important. As we usually don’t practice the fast, the last week before the fast doesn’t really mean anything. For many people Maslenitsa is a farewell to winter, the old good pagan tradition. It doesn’t matter that we have winter at least for one more month. But we know that the winter time passed and it’s almost spring. Hurray!

Some pics from the last year’s Maslenitsa at the Liberty square, Kharkov.

Russian sweets, bliny and drinks for Maslenitsa

preparing bliny (pancakes) on the stove

Lady Maslenitsa

another Lady Maslenitsa

the main Maslenitsa effigy that has been burned afterwards