A Ukrainian Easter

PUBLISHED: 11:36 29 April 2014 | UPDATED: 11:53 29 April 2014

'Pysanky' are painted eggs, a feature of a traditional Ukrainian Easter / Photo: Polischchuk Elena (shutterstock)

'Pysanky' are painted eggs, a feature of a traditional Ukrainian Easter / Photo: Polischchuk Elena (shutterstock)

Archant

Anna Rose provides an insight into the distinct culinary traditions of Easter in Ukraine which are practiced by Ukrainian ex-pats across Warwickshire

'Paska', eggs and seasonal good will / Photo: Africa Studio'Paska', eggs and seasonal good will / Photo: Africa Studio

Often occurring weeks after each other, this year, Western Easter and Ukrainian Easter fell on the same day.

Easter for many Ukrainians is more of a celebration than Christmas. As well as it being the celebration of Christ rising, Easter also acts as an event to welcome in the spring and denotes the end of the solemn period of Lent that precedes it.

Being of Ukrainian parentage, Easter has always been one of the main events on the cultural calendar for me. Where it falls on the same day, my family forfeit the grandeur of Easter lunch and celebrate, the Ukrainian way, with a traditional breakfast.

Breakfast is the focal meal on Easter Day, consisting of a feast that would have been blessed either the day before or early on Easter morning in a special holy service. Typically, the feast would be an elaborate, continental-style breakfast, consisting of cold meats (namely ‘kovbasa’-style sausages or indeed vegetarian versions), cheeses, breads and salads which form the lion’s share of the table. Emphasis is placed on hard boiled eggs, the shells of which are often painted and dyed with intricate patterns called ‘pysanky’. Although a shame to break the shells of these pieces of art, the eggs are usually eaten first and seen as a symbol of new life, depicting Christ’s re-birth.

The main centrepiece for a Ukrainian Easter table would be ‘paska’. ‘Paska’ is only really baked at Eastertime, is somewhat unique to Ukraine and taste-wise is a cross between a cake and a sweet bread which is eaten with butter and jam.

Equally making an appearance on the feast table for many households would be fresh horseradish, often combined with beetroot to make the condiment ‘tsvikly’. Over the years I have enjoyed hearing my father’s tales of foraging for horseradish as a young boy with his friends in Western Ukraine around the village in which he grew up, selling it to elders for their breakfast tables and spending his earned profits on Easter treats.

Ukrainian Easter festivities are celebrated across Warwickshire by communities based in Coventry, Rugby and nearby Birmingham. Made of up ex-pat Ukrainians that settled in the UK after the second world war, subsequent generations who have continued to embrace the rituals, as well as those that have made the UK their new home more recently.

With a strong community in Coventry, the city boasts its own Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Ukrainian social club which organises its own activities and over Easter, and holds a programme of events mirroring traditional practices.

For me, Ukrainian Easter has always been a delightful festival with an opportunity to celebrate my heritage, filled with lots of delicious food, a beautifully decorated table and of course, for afters, the promise of extra chocolate.

This Easter, I indulged in my Eastern European feast on Sunday followed by an Anglo-style Easter roast on Monday – that’s certainly having the best of both worlds and being able to have my cake - or should I say ‘paska’ - and eat it.

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This article is by Anna Rose

For more from Anna, visit her blog: www.wordinvegways.blogspot.com

Or follow her on Twitter: @wordinvegways

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