Category Archives: holiday

It’s Easter this Sunday!

Don’t forget it’s Easter this Sunday for both the Gregorian and Julian calendars. You can read up on our Easter Sunday primer to refresh your memory, and get some varenyky recipes and some odd tips for making Paska from the Canadian Press (doesn’t everyone bake them in old cans?). There are also loads of authentic recipes on this Ukrainian cooking forum.

While I wasn’t able to promote all the local Easter festivals that had happened this weekend, there’s still time to get some of your favourite foods from popular stores (in Toronto there’s Future Bakery, Natalie’s Kitchen and Vatra to name a few).

If you’re going to dabble in some pysanky making, you can still get supplies from local vendors (in Toronto Koota Ooma comes to mind), as well online from Ukrainian Bookstore. Get inspired by some news stories from great pysanky makers and some in training too! For a good laugh there’s always my documented attempt from a few years ago.

And in all the food eating and pysanky making this long weekend, don’t forget to remember the religious aspect of the holiday. For the past two years both Easters have been on the same day, but next year the Gregorian calendar will have Easter fall on April 8, 2012 and Julian on April 15, 2012.


Thousands of Hasidic Jews attend annual pilgrimage to rabbi’s Ukrainian tomb [Article]

From the European Jewish Press:

UMAN (AFP)—Nearly 24,000 Hasidic Jews, most of them from Israel, attended the annual pilgrimage to the grave of a venerated 18th-century rabbi in central Ukraine Thursday, officials told AFP.    

Hundreds of men clad in typical black garb prayed, chanted and danced in the Uman neighbourhoods close to grave of Rebbe Nachman, a key figure in the Hasidic branch of Orthodox Judaism.  

"Celebrations are going on normally, no one is complaining, neither the pilgrims nor the locals," said Petro Payevsky, deputy mayor of this city about 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of the capital Kiev.  

Uman has become a permanent fixture in the Hasidim’s annual Jewish New Year celebrations since Nachman breathed new life into the Hasidic movement 200 years ago.

Nachman, who died in 1810, promised he would save those followers from Hell who came to his grave on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which this year started at sunset on Wednesday.

Read the rest of the article

The pilgrimage was illegal during the Soviet Union, but after Ukraine’s independence in 1991 the ban was lifted along with openings of Jewish schools and synagogues.


Ukrainian Easter Sunday primer

For those of you who need a refresher, here is what Ukrainian Easter is all about. From Traditional Ukrainian Cookery (1957):

With the break of dawn on Easter Sunday a special Ressurection Service is held with a procession around the church. The most beautiful aspect of th service is the joyful heralding of a risen Christ in the singing of the traditional Ukrainian hymn “Christ is Risen” (Khrystos Voskres). The whole congregation sings in unison with a heightened feeling. At the conclusion of the service, rows and rows of food-laden baskets with a lighted candle in each are blessed by the priest. In favourable weather this impressive ceremony is performed outside on the green church lawn. Food baskets covered with richly embroidered napkins contain Easter bread called “paska” and a selection of various Easter foods along with the multi-coloured pysanky. This custom is treasured in Canada. People greet one another with the traditional Easter greeting “Voistyno Voskres!” (He is risen indeed!). It is the custom to exchange or give Easter eggs with this Easter greeting.

Immediately after the service, people return home to break the long fast with an Easter breakfast of consecrated and other food. The breakfast menu consists of cooked eggs, a variety of hot and cold meats, roast suckling pig, cheese, salads, horseradish and beet relish, and a number of delectable Easter breads and pastries. The meal begins with Easter grace and then a ceremonious serving of the blessed egg, which the head of the family divides into several portions, one for each person, greeting the family with the customary Easter greeting of “Khrystos Voskres!”, and extending to everyone the very best wishes. The particular ritual symbolizes family unity and expresses hope for a happy and prosperous year until the next Easter.

Also this Easter I’ll be creating pysanky again, I wonder if they’ll turn out better than last year:

One of the most beautiful of all Ukrainian easter traditions is decorating eggs with artistic designs of a symbolic nature. In Ukrainian the decorated eggs are called “pysanky” from the word “pysaty” which mean to write. The design is actually written on the egg with a fine-pointed stylus dipped in wax, after which follows a series of dye baths. Pysanky are not eaten. The origin of this art is both ancient and obscure. Archeological excavations in Ukraine show that it was practiced several thousand years before the Christian era. Originally pysanky symbolized the release of the earth from the shackles of winter and the coming of spring with its promise of new hope, new life, health and prosperity. They were associated with mythical beliefs and talismanic powers. Folklore has it that a decorated egg can avert any evil, bring good crops, and help a young maiden to win the man of her desire. After the advent of Christianity, the decorated eggs took the new symbols of the Resurrection with its promise of a better world.

The art of painting Easter eggs is still practised in Ukraine and in Canada. Time has not reduced the design to a simpler form. Each new generation strives for greater perfection, beauty, and intricacy. Ukrainians have become unrivalled experts in this interesting folk art. A painted egg may well be called a miniature mosaic.

Here are some pysanky related news this weekend:

And if you thought I made a big stink last Christmas because Mama (who’s now known as Baba to newcomers to the family) didn’t make all the food from scratch, I was shocked to see earlier this week some Paska bread that came from a national grocery store chain:

Oh I’m just kidding! I have been assured though most of our Easter meals are coming from more ethnic chains this year: Vatra and Future Bakery (although Future’s quality has been noticeably declining as of late). I hope you all have a Happy Easter and XpиcÑ‚oc Bocкpec!


An introduction to Ukrainian New Years – Malanka!

It’s on January 13th – but what is it all about?

Malanka is a Ukrainian folk holiday celebrated on January 13th, which is New Year’s Eve in accordance with the Julian calendar. Malanka commemorates the feast day of St. Melania. On this night in Ukraine, carolers traditionally went from house to house playing pranks or acting out a small play (similar to “Vertep” — see above), with a bachelor dressed in women’s clothing leading the troop. Malanka caps off the festivities of the Christmas holidays, and is often the last opportunity for partying before the solemn period of Lent which precedes Easter.

[Ukrainian American Society of Texas]

But like many Ukrainian traditions, they existed long before the adoption of Christianity in 988 where Malanka was a mythical figure:

The celebration of Malanka symbolizes the beginning of Spring being released from captivity and on her arrival bringing the flowers and greenery to life again. This tale is clearly similar to that of Persephone in Greek mythology who was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. In Latin she was known as Proserpina. The story may indicate a cultural link between ancient Greek civilization and ancient Ukraine, since Greek colonies flourished on the Black Sea coast 2,500 years ago. In North America it is traditional for Ukrainian organizations such as Business and Professional Clubs to celebrate Malanka with a banquet and a dance.

In Ukraine the tradition varies from city to city but often features masquerade plays (also known as mumming), and can get quite bizarre:

In the evening before the Malanka night, young men put on all kinds of costumes, some of them weird and bizarre — Devils, Warriors, Police, Witches, Old Women and Men, Death, Blacksmith, Jews, Gypsies, Turks, Hutsuls and representatives of other nationalities. All of these people in their disguise move from house to house performing their little plays and improvisations for those who would care to see their performance. They make very much noise, and in addition to music, they play practical jokes on people — but no one ever gets harmed in any way. Well, the celebrants can attempt to kiss a beautiful girl, or do some mischief, but it’s all in jest.

To recap – last opportunity to party, dance and mumm?

I’m glad I have my ticket!

Malanka Tickets

Here are some of the upcoming Malanka celebrations happening in & around Toronto: