Last night I came home to a rather large box on my front porch. I knew I hadn't ordered anything so I hurried to find out what it was. The return address belonged to my aunt. We had talked on the phone the week before after she received my knitted memory gift. She asked me about Easter and whether I made the traditional foods we usually had growing up for a Ukranian Easter. I told her yes - mostly although I did not make Paska - a sweet egg rich Easter bread - or nut rolls. She promised to look for an extra cookbook from her church - the church I grew up in. It would have the recipes I wanted to make these traditional foods.
I thought maybe the box contained the cookbook - but it was larger and heavier than that. I opened it up to find a beautiful loaf of Paska - the traditional round loaf with braids crossed over the top - a huge nut roll, and kielbasa - the good kind I can't find in my area.
picture from wikipedia
Ok...this isn't a picture of my Aunt's...I popped hers in the freezer until next weekend...but it looks similar to hers...although hers was more golden and perfectly round. It is a wonderful bread filled with sweetness and eggs and raisins to break the long fast of lent.
I love keeping up the traditions of my family. It is funny because my husband is also Ukranian so we have the same holiday traditions.
Easter dinner at my grandparents was always wonderful - my grandparents were quiet unassuming people who loved family and tradition. Easter dinner consisted of ham, kielbasa, beets ground with horseradish, paska, hrudka - which is a sweet bland cheese custard, butter that had been softened and shaped into a lamb, Pysanky eggs, poppyseed and nut rolls and so much more. It was a tradition to place your Easter foods in a beautiful basket lined with embroidered linens and to take this to the church to be blessed.
Each food item was symbolic - for instance the paska or bread is symbolic of Christ Himself, He Who is our Bread of life. It is usually baked as a round loaf with a golden crust decorated with some symbol indicative of Christ, such as a braided cross. Sometimes a cross of dough is placed on top, and the entire loaf rimmed with a braided plait of dough giving it a crowned effect. Sometimes the abbreviation XB is used (in Cyrillic writing - the initials for "Khrystos Voskrese!" - "Christ is Risen!").
On Easter morning after mass we would walk back to my grandparents. The meal would begin with a prayer and then my grandfather would cut one of the blessed eggs into portions - one for each person at the meal. This ritual symbolized family unity and the hopes for a happy and prosperous year until next Easter.
We have a speciall meal also for Christmas Eve and Christmas - again filled with Ukranian traditions. What I love is that my children - my boys - love these traditions and have learned to make some of the traditional Ukranian foods - like pirogis and halupki (cabbage filled with meat and rice). My grandparents didn't live long enough to see my children as adults and to see them carry on the traditions of our families - but I know they would be proud.