This year our traditions were a mix of old and new as we celebrated for the first time at our Byzantine Catholic Church. We made a lot of pysanky during Holy Week, something we hadn't done since my oldest children were little. Lydia decorated one of our homemade beeswax tapers for our Paschal candle. She used crayon melted in a kistka to apply the design and it worked like a charm (boiling water made quick work of cleaning up the kistka). I made my first hrudka, the traditional Eastern European egg cheese served on Easter bread. We enjoyed Slovak pascha baked by the church ladies (including my daughters), along with our traditional Hungarian kalacs. We jumped on the babka bandwagon and make some of those deliciously decadent loaves for the first time. Our customary piskota, nut and poppy rolls, rugelach, and bird nests rounded out our sweets with which to break the Great Fast and celebrate Easter.
Holy Saturday was spent cooking and baking as is our longstanding tradition, though we had to scurry a bit to get everything prepared before evening Liturgy and the blessing of the Pascha food baskets. This was a great thrill as we finally got to participate in this tradition that my mother and sister often speak of from their childhoods in ethnic churches. Anna Ruth embroidered a beautiful Pascha basket cover for us, and the older girls wore their traditional garb for the occasion. Mary Rose wore the Hungarian vest that Josiah made and Anna embroidered for her for Christmas - she had been waiting for the feast day to wear it for the first time. Father blesses the food baskets after Holy Saturday evening Liturgy and again on Easter morning; all the lovingly prepared special foods from the various ethnic traditions make a beautiful sight.
The Easter morning services begin with Resurrection Matins and a procession around the church in the brilliant sunshine, a stark contrast to Good Friday's nighttime procession with the Shroud in the dark. With the church bells ringing out, Father marks the door with the Cross and the troparion of Pascha is sung for the first time:
Christ is risen from the dead!
By death he trampled death
and to those in the tombs he granted life!
Christós voskrése iz mértvych,
smértiju smert' popráv,
i súščym vo hrobích živót darováv.
And we have been singing it seemingly incessantly ever since. With it the Resurrection is proclaimed in song many times throughout every Divine Liturgy, in numerous melodies, in various languages. Folks in my house hum it, whistle it, think it, sing it, back each other up in spontaneous harmonies, live it as it constantly courses through our minds and hearts and souls bringing Resurrection joy and peace and hope. Eliza goes out on the deck every day to sing it at the top of her lungs to the world at large. The reality of the empty tomb permeates and preoccupies our thoughts throughout these glorious triumphant days of Pascha. Holy Mother Church gives us fifty days to celebrate! May the joy of the risen Christ belong to you and yours as well.
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!