Easter holiday, April 19, churches throughout Lviv

  • Easter holiday, April 19, churches throughout Lviv
Issue 12, April 2009.

Easter in Europe’s Original Multicultural Metropolis

Eastern time is traditionally a particularly festive time of year in Lviv, which has long been a city where the wide range of religious identities present in the local population have long been more a cause for celebration than discord. Lviv has always been a crossroads where the historic empires of the Orthodox and the Catholic churches have met, but given the diverse ethnic make-up of old Lviv, Easter has often been a time of year when different denominations have been generous in their congratulations as each celebrates the miracle of the crucifixion according to their own beliefs. In Ukraine Easter is called Velykden (literally: ‘Great Day’) and is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s most important holiday.
Today’s celebrations combine modern innovations with ancient traditions to make the holiday one of the most enjoyable and fun of the year. As with elsewhere in the Christian world, the link between the old, pagan New Year celebrations which Christian Easter actually replaced can still be felt in the symbolic use of eggs throughout the modern Easter ritual. Bread also plays a key role in the Orthodox Easter rites, with priests sprinkling freshly-baked Easter loaves outside churches all over the city on Easter morning itself. The central element of any Ukrainian Easter celebration would have to be the ornately decorated eggs, known locally as 'pysanky’. According to folk wisdom, older guests should be presented with eggs painted in darker, bolder colours, as they have already lived much of their lives and have managed to colour their spiritual eggs in, whereas younger guests should be presented with predominantly white eggs with some basic, light-coloured designs, to signify that their journey on life’s road is only just beginning. One aspect of the local Easter tradition that has always been hugely popular among young Lviv men is the custom of Wet Monday, which follows on from Easter Sunday. According to tradition, on Wet Monday boys are allowed to soak unsuspecting Lviv ladies in water, which is considered lucky for the victims themselves, and devilishly good fun for the young rogues involved in dishing out the soakings. Bystanders rarely fall victim to random soakings, but you might wish to take an extra pair of socks with you to the office on this particular Monday morning! And last but not least, don’t forget that during the Eastern holiday period Ukrainians tend to do away with the standard ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’, greeting each other instead with the somewhat theatrical, “Christ has risen,” and replying with the standard, “he has risen indeed!”