How Ukrainians Celebrate Orthodox Easter: Traditions and Gifts

Orthodox Easter, known as “Pascha” in Ukraine, is a profoundly significant and joyous occasion, steeped in rich traditions and cultural heritage. This vibrant celebration not only marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ but also heralds the onset of spring, symbolizing renewal and new life. Below, we explore the unique customs of Ukrainian Pascha and how you can incorporate traditional Ukrainian gifts from Gifts from Ukraine into your celebration.

The Preparation: Great Lent and Holy Week

The observance of Orthodox Easter begins with Great Lent, a period of fasting and reflection lasting 40 days. This time is integral for spiritual cleansing and preparation. The week leading up to Easter, known as Holy Week, is filled with church services, each marking different elements of the passion and resurrection of Christ.

Palm Sunday: Willow Branches

In Ukraine, Palm Sunday is celebrated with willow branches instead of palm fronds, which are not native to the area. Blessed in churches, these branches are taken home and kept throughout the year as a symbol of protection and blessing.

Holy Thursday: Pysanky

On Holy Thursday, Ukrainians engage in the tradition of painting eggs, known as “pysanky.” These are not just ordinary dyed eggs; they are intricately designed with symbols and patterns that hold spiritual meanings, using a wax-resist method. 

Good Friday: The Shroud

Observance of Good Friday involves the veneration of the Holy Shroud (Plashchanytsia), which symbolizes the burial cloth of Christ. It is brought out in a solemn procession and presented in the church for believers to venerate, symbolizing their reverence and sorrow for the suffering of Jesus.

Easter Sunday: Baskets and Blessings

The climax of the celebrations occurs early Easter Sunday, with a midnight service culminating in the joyous proclamation that Christ has risen. Following the service, Ukrainians bring baskets filled with symbolic foods like Easter bread (“paska”), sausages, eggs, and butter, decorated with embroidered cloths (“rushnyky”), to the church to be blessed. These items, along with decorative rushnyky, can be purchased at Gifts from Ukraine, allowing anyone to bring a piece of Ukrainian tradition into their home.

Easter Monday: Water and Whips

The following day, known as Wet Monday, is filled with lighthearted fun, particularly among the young. Boys traditionally sprinkle water on girls, and playful pursuits are common, symbolizing cleansing and fertility.

Celebrating with Ukrainian Gifts

Incorporating Ukrainian crafts into your Easter celebration not only enriches the experience but also supports the artisans who keep these traditions alive. From hand-painted pysanky eggs to beautifully embroidered rushnyky, these items carry the essence of Ukrainian culture and craftsmanship.

Explore a wide selection of authentic Ukrainian Easter gifts at Gifts from Ukraine. Each purchase helps preserve these age-old traditions and supports the artisans in Ukraine. Celebrate this Orthodox Easter with a touch of Ukrainian heritage that brings meaning and beauty to your festivities.

Life will win over death. Light will win over darkness.

Volodymyr Zelensky.