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Orthodox Easter

Orthodox Easter 2018 and 2019

During its time under Soviet rule, Ukrainian Easter traditions were forcibly suppressed. However there has been a resurgence of old cultural traditions since independence in 1991. In 2018, Orthodox Easter Sunday falls on 8 April.

YearDateDayHoliday
20188 AprSunOrthodox Easter Sunday
9 AprMonOrthodox Easter Monday
201928 AprSunOrthodox Easter Sunday
29 AprMonOrthodox Easter Monday
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Although long-kept Easter traditions are not observed by all Ukrainians today, there are many who still do keep them.

In Ukraine, Holy Week is known as the Great Week and begins on Palm Sunday, which is also called “Willow Sunday”. Pussywillow twigs are blessed at church, and then people touch one another with these branches to bring good luck, saying, “Be tall as a willow, healthy as water, and rich as is the earth.”

Some farmers also use these pussywillows as “gentle cattle prods” for the first springtime visit to a pasture. Once in the pasture, the branch is stuck into the earth to bring good luck.

On Maundy Thursday, the devout attend passion services and work is traditionally forbidden. The people go to church to hold candles and return home with them still lit. In eastern Ukraine, it is believed by many that the dead meet together with the living in these passion services to hear the liturgy read.

In much of Ukraine, the “cult of the dead” is strongly observed, and no time more strongly than during the Great Week. The week following Easter is also associated with this cult and is called “the Week of the Nymphs.” On the first Sunday after Easter Sunday, people gather in church cemeteries to eat food and wine, but they leave the excess behind on the grave sites for the dead to eat.

Easter eggs are a tradition Ukraine has in common with most Western nations. But in Ukraine they are frequently used as gift items, and exchanging Easter eggs is associated with deep affection.

On Good Friday it is tradition for no work to be done. In some places in Ukraine, along with a Good Friday service, a “Holy Shroud” is carried thrice around the church building and publicly laid out to be venerated.

This shroud represents the burial cloth in which Christ was wrapped but that he passed through and left behind when he arose. When John and Peter entered the empty tomb on Easter Morning, this shroud was neatly folded and served as evidence of Christ’s Resurrection.

Easter Sunday itself is a time for joy and feasting. The whole community celebrates. Bells ring aloud, and songs of spring are sung. In church, it is a day of “high liturgy,” and pasky (Easter bread), decorated Easter eggs, and a whole Easter meal are ceremonially blessed and put into baskets for the congregants to carry home.