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Easter

Easter is the feast of Christ's resurrection, which in its observance combines both pagan and Christian elements.
The last Sunday before Easter (Palm Sunday) is called Willow Sunday (Verb-na nedilia). On this day pussy-willow branches are blessed in the church. The people tap one another with these branches, repeating the wish: "Be as tall as the willow, as healthy as the water, and as rich as the earth". They also use the branches to drive the cattle to pasture for the first time, and then the father or eldest son thrusts his branch into the earth for luck.

The week before Easter, the Great Week (Holy Week), is called the White or Pure Week. During this time an effort is made to finish all field work before Thursday, since from Thursday on work is forbidden. On the evening of "Pure" (also called "Great" or "Passion") Thursday, the passion service is performed, after which the people return home with lighted candles. Great Thursday, called "the Easter of the dead" in eastern Ukraine, is connected with the cult of the dead, who are believed to meet in the church on that night for the Divine Mass.

On Passion (Strasna) Friday Good Friday no work is done. In some localities, the Holy Shroud (plashchany-tata) is carried solemnly three times around the church and, after appropriate services, laid out for public veneration.

Easter is the principal spring festival, its rites are closely related to agriculture, to the remembrance of the dead, and to the marriage season; during their performance, praise is given, ritual songs ore sung, and there is much well-wishing.

Easter is a feast of joy and gladness that unites the entire community in common celebration. For three days the community celebrates to the sound of bells and to the singing of spring songs vesnianky. Easter begins with the Easter matins and high mass, during which the pasky (traditional Easter breads) and pysanky and krashanky (decorated or colored Easter eggs) are blessed in church. Butter, lard, cheese, roost suckling pigs, sausage, smoked meat, and little napkings containing poppy seeds, millet, salt, pepper, and horseradish are also blessed. After the matins all the people in the congregation exchange Easter greetings, give each other krashanky, and then hurry home with their baskets of blessed food (sviachene).

In Western Ukraine at Easter the girls perform special choral dances on the church grounds. These are the haivky or hahilky, which have retained a number of motifs that are older than those of the ordinary spring songs (vesnianky).

The krashanky and pysanky are an old pre-Christian element and have an important role in the Easter rites. They are given as gifts or exchanged as a sign of affection, and their shells are put in water for the rakhmany (peaceful souls); finally, they are placed on the graves of the dead or buried in graves and the next day are taken out and given to the poor. Related to the exchange of krashanky is the rite of sprinkling with water, which is still carried on in Western Ukraine on the second day of Easter (Wet Monday, Oblyvanyi ponedilok); it is practiced by young people, the boys usually splashing the girls with water.

During the Easter season in Ukraine the cult of the dead is observed. The dead are remembered on Maundy Thursday and also during the whole week after Easter. For the commemoration of the dead (provody) the people gather in the cemetery by the church, bringing with them a dish containing some food and liquor or wine, which they consume, leaving the rest at the graves.


 
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