Today’s guest blog post is from a new friend of mine, Deanna Pavlenko, whom I met through an online writing group called Novel Academy. We are in a small group called a “huddle” with three other women within that organization. We group-text everyday, asking how we can help one another and be in prayer for each other. Deanna heads our group and she does a fantastic job. As we’ve texted back and forth, she’s shared that her family is of Ukrainian descent. Last week, she told us the incredible amount of hours her family invests to make traditional Ukrainian and Russia fare for Easter. I asked her if she’d share her traditions and she was game to do so.
Here’s her bio:
Deanna writes contemporary women’s fiction with a focus on multicultural families. Her biggest hope is that readers will find encouragement through the pages of her writing as they learn about forgiveness, reconciliation, faith, and love. Deanna is a first-generation American and is the first female in her family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, which she obtained from Western New England University. She continues learning the craft of writing fiction through American Christian Fiction Writers as well as Novel Academy. She lives in Massachusetts and is currently writing her first manuscript. Connect with her on Instagram @deannapavlenko.
Friends, you’ll not only learn how her family celebrates Orthodox Easter, but Deanna’s provided some pictures and links to traditional recipes, courtesy of her friend, food blogger, Natasha Kravchuk.
Here’s Deanna’s post:
A time to weep, and a time to laugh. And a time when sleep is highly overrated…
Tomorrow is April 19, 2020—the day of the brightest, most joyful and cheerful celebration…and it’s currently snowing.
Freezing temperatures, ice, snow, and a gray sky don’t exactly paint a picture of spring nor build excitement for the greatest day ever.
This is my backyard….
At this point, you’re thinking…what’s the big deal about tomorrow, Sunday, April 19, 2020?
It’s Orthodox Easter Day in Ukraine! The glorious Resurrection day of our Lord Jesus Christ!!
I woke up early today (Saturday, April 18, 2020), to see if the weather channel was really telling the truth about all this snow and…yes. Yes, they were. They definitely weren’t kidding.
And as I sit here with a cup of coffee in hand, watching the cherry blossom tree struggle to stand tall beneath a heavy blanket of snow, I remember a different kind of struggle….
The struggle of a girl waking up at 3 o’clock in the morning (after going to bed after midnight), rubbing dry, gritty eyes as she brushed her teeth and put on her Sunday best…the struggle of a sleep-deprived family frantically hurrying to make it to the 6 a.m. Easter service.
Yes. You read that right. Our Slavic Pentecostal Easter service starts at the Break. Of. Dawn.
I remember thinking, WHYYYYYYY? WHY SO EARLY?!
My sister and I didn’t dare complain (it felt wholly unholy to whine on Easter) and proceeded to silently drag ourselves into the car and bleakly stare at the empty highway.
We’d perk up when the exit for church came into view – the excitement bubbling when we saw the parking lot PACKED with cars.
Despite leaving at 5:30 a.m., we were constantly running late and as the choir’s pianist and violinist, our uncle (the choir conductor) would be waiting for us. (It’s been twelve years of us running late and he’s never complained either, bless the man.) We’d hurry to the front of the sanctuary and assume our places.
And at exactly 6 a.m. on the dot, our pastor would approach the pulpit and the congregation would stand in greeting.
Seeing him at the pulpit, kids would start smiling in anticipation, and dare I say, even the adults looked excited as the pastor would clear his throat and declare, “HE’S RISEN!!”
And in response, the entire church—kids and grinning adults—would loudly shout back, “TRULY HE’S RISEN!!”
The pastor would repeat this greeting in Russian three times and the congregation would respond three times—kids, of course, shouting as loud as they could!
Traditional Slavic services last about two hours, sometimes three hours for holidays, with four to five different preachers addressing the congregation this exact way. Thus, according to my rough calculations, we shout this proclamation up to 15-20 times during the Easter service. And I can assure you, it doesn’t get old. 🙂
This is a small glimpse of how the traditional Slavic people celebrate Easter Sunday. And while it didn’t make sense to me as a child, I knew exactly how to respond when a group of kids asked me, “BUT WHYYYYYYY?! WHY SO EARLY?!”
I laughed, the sentiment familiar, and realized why.
Why did we follow these traditions? Why do most people stay awake for most of the night before celebrating Jesus’ resurrection?
Well, simply because the apostles did. We follow the example of Mary and Mary Magdalene who went to the tomb early Sunday morning. We follow the examples set before us—both scripturally and culturally.
In keeping these ways, we re-enact what the followers of Jesus did. We feel the tiredness, the lack of energy, the journey to where He was laid. We follow the exact record of what is written in Scripture and feel the excitement when we shout, “TRULY HE’S RISEN!!!”
In keeping the old traditions, our family also bakes sweet bread in celebration and cooks our traditional Slavic food that is shared with all the family gathered—which adds up to roughly 50 people at our house. That’s a lot of family, a lot of food, and a lot of love around the table.
It’s an incredibly special time of remembrance and celebration—full of traditions, both old and new, that I hope we pass down with each generation.
Blessings to you all on this Glorious Resurrection day of our Messiah!
P.S. We celebrated Easter last week (the American way, haha) and while we didn’t go to church, we still greeted family with ALL CAPS in our messages and loud voices when we called one another. 🙂
P.P.S. HE’S RISEN!!!
I highly recommend visiting my friend, Natasha Kravchuk’s website, NatashasKitchen.com , for many popular traditional Slavic recipes that our family loves!
Thanks, Deanna, for sharing your family’s Easter traditions with readers. So interesting and wow, your friend’s website, NatashasKitchen is amazing!
About Julie Saffrin
Julie Saffrin is the author of numerous published articles and essays. Her latest book, BlessBack: Thank Those Who Shaped Your Life, explores the power of gratitude and offers 120 creative ways to journey toward positive, lasting change.