From learning how to make pysanky or Ukrainian Easter eggs through a meditative practice of egg decorating using beeswax to trying traditional Ukrainian Easter bread, the Ukrainian Easter Charity Marathon fully immersed all attendees into Ukrainian Easter culture at its best.
Throughout the marathon, the Ukraine House guests and experts explored the customs that have survived despite the Soviet prohibition of religious practices, learnt about the Ukrainian intellectuals and investors who sought to preserve Ukrainian culture through decades of repressions, and reflected on the ways in which Ukrainian history is filled with pages of both, sorrow and hope, for the future.
Easter is one of the biggest celebrations in Ukraine and has deeply rooted traditions and rituals of preparing for this Holy day such as fasting, preparing the household, decorating eggs with beeswax painting technique (pysanky), preparing special Easter bread and basket for blessing, as well as cooking brunch full of peculiar Easter dishes based on traditional recipes, and enjoying the holidays filled with traditional spring songs and dancing etc.
From left to right: Nataliia Popovych, Chairperson, Ukraine House in Denmark, Nadiyka Gerbish, a best selling and award-winning Ukrainian author of 20 titles, Lesya Ignatyk-Eriksen, Head of the Assosiation of Ukrainians in Denmark.
During the Chat with Witnesses about Preserving Easter Traditions in Ukraine throughout history Lesya Ignatyk-Eriksen, Head of the Association of Ukrainians in Denmark reminded that during the Soviet Union Ukrainians were not allowed to celebrate Easter openly and go to church, otherwise people could be punished and even killed by communist regime of the XXth century.
“Later open terror was replaced by “alternative Soviet celebrations” and during Easter weekends people were forced to clean up the areas or participate in Communist party events: sporting competitions, lottery, movie days – anything to distract people from Easter. Despite any obstacles millions Ukrainians continued to celebrate “forbidden” Easter behind closed doors,” says Lesya Ignatyk-Eriksen.
Despite its tough past and nowadays war with Russia Ukraine managed to maintain and develop its traditions, including Big Lent.
“In a time of war, Lent has transformed, Ukrainians sacrifice their desire for pleasures, postpone some materialistic needs such as buying a new car or going on vacation but they donate, donate, donate. It became a national “sport” – to donate as much and as quickly as possible to the needs of the army and volunteers,”
says a Ukrainian writer, podcaster, translator, producer Nadiyka Gerbish.
Iryna Ignatenko, ethnologist, author, podcast host, associate professor, University of Copenhagen admitted that more people attend church on Easter even though not all may be religious. The tradition of blessing food by a priest is very popular all around Ukraine. Back in the past people brought baskets with baked meat, cheese, salt, poppy seeds, garlic, decorated eggs “pysanky”, Easter bread “paska” etc. Nowadays it could be any food which people will eat on Easter brunch with the family but pysanky and paska are still the most important attributes.
Traditional Ukrainian Easter bread "paska"
The visitors of Ukraine House in Denmark tasted a classic Easter bread paska. They also participated in several master classes and workshops of decorating eggs. A Ukrainian artist Andriy Muzychenko showed and explained the meaning of the most common elements which Ukrainians painted on eggs for centuries – the sun, stars, crosses, spirals etc.
Another workshop was curated by a Ukrainian artist Olesya Drashkaba who introduced the guests PYSANKA – the Ukrainian name for a wax-resist type egg, which comes from the verb “pysaty” (писати), meaning "to write", as the patterns are written onto the egg with beeswax, not painted on.
The practice of pysankarstvo (the art of making pysankas) was widespread throughout Ukraine and every region had its own patterns. Ukrainians have been decorating eggs, creating these miniature jewels, for countless generations. There is a ritualistic element involved, magical thinking, a calling out to the gods and goddesses for health, fertility, love, wealth.
“Painting with wax is the most understandable meditation for me. A special atmosphere, a special slowing down because it’s impossible to make sudden movements, everything is very fragile. It is about special aromas and special restrictions, because wax writing has certain technical features, which are fun to play with. And the main thing is that the Easter egg perfectly teaches the combination of traditional and modern, as well as tension and relaxation. It s the perfect way to fight perfectionism and observe small and important improvements,” – Olesya Drashkaba.
Photos by Vian Backer Shaker, Maya Zakhovaiko