Friday, April 3, 2015

Ukrainian Easter

I implied that my mother's Easter table was a work of art--culinary art.  I don't have access to an actual picture.  I really don't believe there were too many taken. But there are many images on Google that look very familiar to me.

Even the table cloth is reminiscent of my mother's.

It is the Ukrainian tradition to fill a basket with Easter foods and take them to church for a blessing.  My mother set out all the food on the table for Saturday night and had the priest come to the house for blessing of the food.

There was a ham and kielbasa.  A little dish of salt and shaped butter with an impression of a cross pressed in.  There were eggy, sweet breads--paska and babka--and eggs, of course.

 I remember celery and carrot sticks as the vegetable.  There was also a dish of horseradish mixed with red beets.

We did have some elaborate Ukrainian eggs such as this:

We did color eggs every year, but ours were more along the lines of this one that I found on Martha Stewart:

We drew the designs with melted wax and a toothpick and then dyed the eggs.

In truth, I was not enamored of the whole Easter holiday.  It involved a lot of time in church, which I hated.  When not in church, my mom was in the kitchen doing the baking and other elaborated preparations.  The table was set up the night before so the food could be blessed, then put away.

I mostly remember, from after the basket hunt days, my mother going to bed right after Easter Sunday service and sleeping for the day.  I am sure she was exhausted, but Easter dinner kind of felt like eating leftovers.

Also, Easter as a celebration of the Springtime renewal is kind of lost in Vermont since it is just as likely to be snowing that day as not. What was the point of having new black patent leather shoes when you had to wear boots?

I saved the best for last, though--paskha.

My mother made hers in a clay flower pot.  It is a rich cheese dessert--a creamy cheesecake experience.  I wouldn't mind having some of that again someday.

I file this under "things I did not appreciate as a child but have a certain nostalgic fondness for thinking about now."


  1. In my 'former life,' I used to make Ukrainian eggs with my students! Your mother was probably exhausted after all that work!

  2. That sounds and looks lovely. I wouldn't mind having a taste of all of that. Yummy.

  3. Most of the holidays involve lots of work on the part of the women in the family. Nice memories, but lots of work That cheesecake looks intriguing.

  4. My what interesting foods and those eggs are so creative. Your poor Mom doing all that work but it must have been worth it for you to remember it all these years later.

  5. That would have been a lot of work, with the baking and the roasting, etc. It is no wonder you mom felt the need to sleep!

    Our Easter dinner was much simpler but what I remember most is having family visit.

  6. We do pretty much what we have always done. There's church, which I now skip, and then Easter dinner with family. We don't have to have our food blessed so we get to eat ours fresh and hot. Later there will be an egg hunt in the yard, weather permitting. Rain can spoil the fun, but at least it's not snow. And we are surrounded by spring beauty.
    I think your Florida picnic sounds like a good way for you to go. Nostalgia is OK, but enjoying yourself is better.

  7. It all sounds wonderful !
    We didn't eat anything particularly different for Easter , just my grandmother's usual mammoth , cholesterol-laden Sunday breakfast ( attendance compulsory ! )
    But I always got a new dress or sweater in yellow to wear , specially for the day .

  8. The eggs are quite beautiful, but that seems like a tremendous amount of work for something as ephemeral as an egg. I am still not big on Easter. All those pastel colors are mamby pamby.

  9. I think my family missed out on some of those European traditions for Easter for lots of reasons. My grandmother would cook a more traditional meal that one would find in Wales on Easter such as lamb. She made a lot of breads. Her sister made potica. I love potica. Did your mom make that?

    My mother did not cook at Easter. She sewed. We all had new clothes that she stayed up all night making. I remember her also being so tired on Easter. I guess it was a good thing we at at my father's mother's house.

    When my children were younger we started the tradition of a hot dog roast in the park or in the mountains. That was a lot easier than all that baking. I'm afraid I also stayed up late sewing dresses for my little one for Easter Sunday.

  10. The Ukrainian eggs are beautiful. My Mom used to make a wonderful Easter dinner, Midwestern fare, but delicious. She always made a big ham, mashed potatoes, a fruit salad which she called "ambrosia" and a cake with white icing and shredded coconut. How I would love to taste her coconut cake and ambrosia once again. As a child I enjoyed Easter as much as I did Christmas. My cousins and I loved the Easter egg hunt. We loved Easter egg hunts so much that we kids would hide and hunt plastic eggs all spring long. It seems we would finally tire of it around the time that the lightening bugs started to appear in early summer.

    Have a wonderful Easter!

  11. How lovely! I used to have a table set up in my classrooms and we would use the stylus and wax in the week before Easter.

  12. Lots of work. But the memories she made!

  13. Easter has never been a huge holiday for us. We have friends who have adopted different traditions for the holidays - one family goes to Tijuana to take their family Christmas photo; one family spends Christmas at the beach which you can do here. It is just a lot easier!

  14. My mother's and father's family brought their traditions to us as kids. We were outfitted in new stuff when it was afordable to do so and baking and cleaning was a huge part. But everyone helped and it was fun. I always loved my aunt's baked goods. She created a braided sweet bread. And the main meal was usually some small roast that gave the freshly cleaned home a more inviting aroma. We were a happy bunch though we had little.
    once I had a family we carried forwar a few things and Buddy makes sure we attempt to keep it that way.


I appreciate readers' comments so much. You don't even always have to agree with me.