cinco de mayonnaise // orthodox easter


with may comes my last month in ukraine and holidays — lots of them! i looked at my calendar and realized that 3 holidays in two weeks on-top of going away parties means that i’m basically partying every day (and possibly drunk packing) for the remainder of my time in ukraine. not a bad way to leave, i might say.

yesterday we celebrated cinco de paska, i mean, paska. this year paska, ukrainian orthodox easter, just happened to fall on cinco de mayo. while ukrainians don’t celebrate cinco de mayo (tragedy!), they celebrate paska in a similar fashion — drinking, dancing, and all around “good time having”. and with the number of mayonnaise based salads that graced every ukrainian family’s easter dinner table the holiday might as well have been called cinco de mayonnaise.

one might say that orthodox easter begins with the first signs of paska — small loafs of easter bread topped with a thin layer of white icing and colorful sprinkles. i was planning on trying my hand at baking some myself, but since the recipe calls for 15 eggs (and that’s no typo) to make 4 loafs and basically half a day in the kitchen, i decided not to. i’ll probably bake it next year in america but while i can simply buy some paska at any and every store, i’ll submit to laziness. plus i don’t even really like it (shhh, don’t tell!)

i didn’t go to church to get my easter basket of decorated eggs, wine, and paska, blessed this year. i went to an easter service my first year in ukraine with my host mother. the service lasted 5 hours…all standing. so needless to say, i went to church long enough for the rest of my service. this year’s easter was a bit more fun than standing in an incense-filled room till the sun came up.

lucky for me i live only 45 minutes or so away from the sea of azov where my landlords recently bought a beach home and planned to celebrate paska — beach bum style. come easter day, eight of us (myself and sarah included) piled into my landlord’s van and headed towards the water. when we pulled up to their new beach house i couldn’t help but think it was some magical seaside castle. there were eight rooms or and an outdoor kitchen (they’re in the process of fixing it up so they can rent out the rooms). soon after we arrived shashlyk (barbeque) was in the making along with a variety of mayo salads.

the only moment i remembered it was in fact a religious holiday happened right before lunch when we all had to eat a piece of paska and a hard boiled egg. but other than that and a few “christos voskress” (christ has risen), it honestly felt more like cinco de mayo on some spring break beach front…not that there were any wet t-shirt contests or highlighter parties, but the beach was littered with flirty young people with beers in-hand shashlyking. it was pretty entertaining to watch them as i dried off in the sun. while tamer than american spring breakers, they still had the same booze induced idea to wrestle each other near open fire or throw their ladies in the water. shockingly, it made me miss hanging out with people my age.

but ukrainians at any age are still pretty damn fun people. they’re down to party, kill vodka bottle after bottle, and stay up WAY past their bedtime dancing the night away. i love that about them, that they know how to have a good time. anywhere. anytime. there’s no “turn 40 and boring” here. i feel like it’s that way in america, like once you reach a certain age you just become “un-fun”.  not that “fun” has to mean drinking, but just to get un-hinged and live one night with more dirty jokes and less inhibitions (i guess most people would need booze for that). this kind of family partying is completely new to me. whenever i make comments about how fun their holidays gatherings are, and how different it is back home, sarah can’t really agree  since she’s irish. maybe it’s because i was raised protestant and protestants have a history of being pretty prude. i’ll just have to marry into an irish, greek, italian, mexican, ukrainian…basically anything but protestant, family. ; )

after beach bumming and some fishing, we all went back to the house to eat and drink some more. we finished the booze supply rather early on, and the beach front store actually sold out of vodka (unheard of!), but that didn’t stop us from having a good time. at some point during our paska celebration my ukrainian friends told me that i’m the first american they’ve hosted that understands the language well enough to get their humor, and actually make jokes right back at them. they told me “kristinaaaaa, you’re one of us! you’re an ukrainka!”. a language skills compliment AND a cultural understanding compliment in one?!  it was the best possible compliment i could have received.  it was as if ukraine was saying “okay, you’ve passed the test. you can go home now”.

as the night went on sarah (against her will) and i (not against my will) ended up singing the american national anthem on top of the balcony to an audience of lighter waving ukrainians below. as we stood there, a flashlight as our spotlight, disrupting the quiet of the night, i watched my ukrainian friends below swaying and cheering us on, and thought — i’m going to miss this. i’m going to miss them.

it was the last time all of my ukrainian friends and site mate would be together before i left. i’m not sure i’ll have an actual going away party with them but this was perfect enough, this is how i want to remember things — even if things are a little fuzzy from the homemade wine. they made me promise to keep in touch and when i find a boyfriend (that’s been their #1 most important mission all along), that i have to send them a photo or skype with said new boyfriend and they’ll either tell me “yes” or “no”. so now any future men in my life have to have the approval of both my families (american and ukrainian). ha.

they’ve asked many times when i’ll be able to come back and visit (“with your children!” they say hopefully)– but my answer is always the same — i want to, but we’ll see about money and time. i really hope i can visit again before long. my ukrainian hosts have become a second family to me. they are all such caring, kind, generous people that i’m thankful to have gotten to know — thankful that i’ll have people to miss and people to miss me.

now it’s off to my second to last day of school. i have a picnic planned for my english club kiddos, printed some photos from our parties for them, and have a box of things (stickers, toys, bookmarks) to hand-out. even though they’re goofy goober-heads in class, saying good-bye to my students isn’t going to be easy.


the sea of azov






dried fish for sale


my landlord’s new beach house. so nice!







one of the many photos from my forced photo sessia


a giant bag of mayonnaise.


the singing begins


sarah and igor dancing the night away

3 thoughts on “cinco de mayonnaise // orthodox easter

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