Ukrainian Easter Blessings (from my Croatian family)

I have to think my Ukrainian matriarchs would have loved our Easter celebration this year.

My daughter Molly gifted me with a Ukrainian Easter basket including traditional kielbasa and Molly-made goodies, my sister in-law Elaine gave me (and everyone else) a walnut roll (the highlight of every visit to my grandparent’s house in Colver, Pennsylvania), my other sister in-law Cary (our host for the holiday, along with her husband Steve) gave me gorgeous spring flowers, and another sister in-law Sharon sent me Ukrainian Easter eggs.

Traditionally, Ukrainians take their Easter baskets to church to have them blessed by the priest. My grandma did this and she used to send our family in Wisconsin a care package containing Easter basket food as well. Once Ukrainian Easter baskets have been blessed, none of the food in them can be wasted.

First, comes the blessing of the bread, or Paska, which is a rich and delicious braided loaf Molly has perfected over the years.

“O Holy Master, Father almighty, pre- eternal God: be pleased to sanctify this bread by your holy and spiritual blessing, so that it might be unto salvation of souls as well as bodily health for all who eat of it. May it also protect against all illness and every attack of the enemy.”

I think this blessing must be especially poignant this year.

Next, comes the blessing of the meat and Molly included Kielbasi (that’s the way we say it and I challenge you to prove us wrong) she purchased from a local Ukrainian butcher for that. Such a treat! Dairy products get blessed next and then the salt and horseradish, grated with beets. Molly found me a jar of this as well. Amazing.

I kept thinking about Easter blessings yesterday and the way they spilled out from the basket Molly gave me, and swirled through our host’s beautiful home and into the world around.

I hope you all had a similarly blessed Easter weekend and that our heroic Ukrainians, who will celebrate the Orthodox Easter next weekend, feel our love and support from across the sea.

This is my great-grandma Anna, who came to the United States from Ukraine when she was just 15-years old. She eventually married fellow Ukrainian George Semko, pictured here, with my grandma Ustenna (later called Julie), her little sister Nellie and her baby sister Rosie. This picture was taken on the front porch of their house on 20 Row in Colver Pennsylvania. As I have written about before, that house later burned to the ground and my great-grandfather George, who had fought his way back into the house to rescue his youngest daughter, later died. I thought about them and all Ukrainians during our Easter celebration this year.
My sister in-law Cary gave me the flowers (and also hosted our weekend), my daughter Molly made me the paska and the kolaches (Ukrainian cookies).
With the kielbasi, horseradish with beets, walnut roll, paska and pysanky (Ukrainian Easter Egg), this makes up a traditional Ukrainian Easter basket.
Ukrainians “write” their Easter eggs, a tradition that actually predates Christianity. They preserve their eggs by removing the contents and then decorating the shells. My sister in-law Sharon found this one, and sent me a note saying she had order me three Pysanky eggs from Ukraine. I can’t wait to see them and I love that we can support Ukrainian artists even when that country is at war.
I was so excited to see all of our family members (some of whom I had not seen since before the pandemic) that I didn’t take nearly enough pictures. But, here is an Easter weekend 2022 picture of some of my favorite people (others checked in from LA, New Jersey and Chile.)

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