easter in ukraine is kind of a big deal. no, it’s a very very big deal. the name for easter literally translates to ‘big day’ and it’s also a national holiday. so needless to say, it’s taken seriously. my host family, who is urkainian orthodox, was busy preparing the easter meal for about a week before the ‘big day’. i told my host mom i wished to go to church with her because i really wanted to experience that and she was rather reluctant to let me go at first…and with good reason. this church service is not for the weak, it’s a test of endurance. the church service begins at midnight and lasts till 5am. that’s 5 hours of ukrainian, standing in a basement (while the church is under construction).
megan came over to my house around 9pm (since her family doesn’t go to the orthodox church). we slept for 2 hours, woke up, got ready for church sporting knee length dress and head scarfs. on our way out the door my host sister, who decided to stay home since she wasn’t feeling well, said good-bye as if heading into battle. then i sort of wondered what in the world i was getting myself into. we headed off in the chilly night, with basket of paska in tote (traditional easter bread), towards the ringing church bells.
we got to the church just as the service was about to begin. everyone gathered outside, singing in the quiet night and begin slowly walking around the church once before heading back inside. it’s a real shame the church itself is still underconstrucion. i mean not only so we might have pews to sit in, but it would probably be rather impressive. even though we headed down to the basement, it was still fairly impressive. i mean for a basement. it did have a carved wooden divider separating the area just for priests and alter boys. although there were 3 very narrow benches and one stool. those were the only seats. for 200 people.
and so it began…
12:00 am- xристос воскрес! (christ is risen) X 384 times (i’ll certainly have that memorized). oh shoot, i forgot how to make the sign of the cross. oops…just copy everyone else around me.
1:00 am- caught the priest snickering with each other.
2:00 am- made a brake for it and went outside with megan. recharged with ukrainian chocolate and a PEANUT BUTTER luna bar.
2:30 am- back inside. now we can’t feel our toes. feeling great from the chocolate, luna bar, english and fresh air. now begins the reading of family prayers from the prayer books. i swear every other ukrainian is named ‘alexander’.
3:00 am- the choir (a group of about 6 very pitch women standing around one desk lamp) has sang the same 5 songs at least 50 times by this point and i still have no idea what they’re saying. a bunch of sleepy kids under the age of 6 lined up and were fed a raisin (i don’t get this part) from a golden goblet.
4:00 am- a break outside would be nice but there’s no way to get out of here now…the late comers have now packed the room. makin the sign of the cross like a pro now. some passage from some book is read. not really sure what’s going on to be honest…
5:23 am- i will never agian complain about church services in america being too long. my host mom informs us that it actually ends at 5, not 6, which at this point is the greatest news. we take our basket and like everyone else, line it up for the priest to walk though and bless with holy water.
5:45- basket blessed. holy water splashed. time to go home!
we head outside with church bells ringing into the still dark morning now doppled with the glow of candles and the vague outline of people. the ENTIRE village was silently waiting under the moon to have their baskets of paska blessed. i had not idea there was such a collection of people outside since i was too busy ‘xристос воскрес’ing inside. i was as surprised to see that many people as a little kids is to find presents from santa on christmas morning. it was such a sight!
immediately after getting back home, i changed into my pajamas. and just as the sun was saying good morning, i said goodnight. around 10 am i heard my host mom working in the kitchen and decided to get up and help. by 11am everyone was up and sasha (my host brother) started the bbq.
while the food was cooking jenya and i went on a walk to find this specific plant to use for dying the easter eggs. i really wasn’t sure exactly how this was going to play out until my host mom brought out hosiery, string, and a little dish of water. she dipped the egg in water, then dipped the leaf in water and carefully arranged the leaf on the egg. after she wrapped the egg in hosiery and tied it closed with string. the cluster of eggs were then dunked into a giant pot of boiled onion peels she’d been collecting since i got there (which i NOW understand why she stopped me when she saw me throwing them out). it was such a simple process but they turned out so beautifully. i think i’ll have to adopt that method, rather than the lazy-way with fake neon colored tablets we use back in america.
it’s amazing how much time was spent preparing that one meal. amazing because it honestly wasn’t that much more food than is usually served. cause there’s ALWAYS so much food on the table. but it was such a nice meal. dinner conversation mainly involved questions about what job is the most popular in american, how much does it make, how much do you make. which i didn’t mind answering. teachers make diddly squat here too (pretty sure that’s universal), but interestingly enough doctors are one of the lowest paying jobs. i guess that’s what happens when health care is provided? not really sure. ukrainian doctors should definitely come to america.
i’ve done several rather ‘ukrainian’ things since i last wrote:
firstly, i planted potatoes like a good ukrainian girl. my host family baaaaaarely let me go with them to the land that they own just outside of town to help them plant. they kept warning me that it’s super hard work. sasha even tried to tell me that there are wolves and giant wild rabbits lol.
but as stubborn as i am, i woke up at 5:30am to go with them. we loaded up the side car of their motorcycle (yes, they have a side car and yes i want to ride it) with bags of potatoes. and when i say ‘we loaded’ i mean sasha and his dad. naturally i went to go help load a bad of potatoes (which was about 30 pounds) but as soon as i just picked it SLIGHTLY off the ground, my host mom and sister gasped and looked at me wide-eyed. they said ‘KRISTEN!!!!! women do NOT do that kind of work. that is not a woman’s job!” it was kind of hard not to laugh cause you would have thought i did something like walk outside in just my bra and underwear. but i guess it is just that shocking to them. though, i got the point, and tried my best to remember.
even when we were planting potatoes, i was treated like a woman from the 16th century who has never had to do hard work in her life. they kept asking me if i needed a break or if i was tired. which is super nice, don’t get me wrong, i’ve just never been treated that way. i guess they forgot i’m from the midwest and i’m quite a hearty girl ; )
secondly, my host mom just cut bangs for me, as of 3 hours ago. i haven’t had bangs since i was 14…and i certianly went through some regrettable bang stages. but i’m in ukraine. why not do it. nobody here knows me so if they look terrible it won’t be that awful to deal with. but seeing as how bangs are super popular in ukraine…maybe they’ll help me to fit in…haha