Last Weekend (March 31) we celebrated Easter here in Transcarpathia.  Ukraine, like the rest of the Eastern Orthodox Church, will celebrate Easter this year on May 5.  The Eastern Orthodox Church follows a three year cycle in regards to Easter. Every third year the Protestant, Roman Catholic, and the Eastern Orthodox Easter coincide on the same weekend.  In the remaining two years the Eastern Orthodox church choses to celebrate Easter three weeks later and five weeks later, respectively.  For most of Ukraine’s 48 million residents, Easter weekend will be celebrated in the warmth of May.  For 170,000 ethnic Hungarians and other minorities living in the borderlands of Western Ukraine on the Constantinople-Rome fault line, Easter is celebrated with the rest of the Protestant and Roman Catholic world.

Easter is one of the most celebrated holidays in Eastern and Central Europe, but sadly for many it is merely a long weekend off from work and a time to spend with family and friends.  Easter begins on Good Friday and concludes with Easter Monday.  Despite a secular drift, Easter, along with Christmas, is a time for many to go to church, and churches are full on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. The week leading up to Easter is often spent in preparation for the weekend.  Easter meats, salads, and sweets are prepared and houses are cleaned from top to bottom in a spring cleaning.

Easter Sunday is in some respects more of a quiet and reverent day, commemorating the true meaning of Easter.  The day is spent attending church, celebrating the Lord’s Supper, remembering the Lord’s death and resurrection, as well as time spent with family.  While many people also go to church on the morning of Easter Monday, this day is spent visiting with family, neighbors, and friends from other villages.  One interesting tradition unique to Eastern Europe is on Easter Monday morning, young boys walk around the village with baskets visiting the homes of young girls. The boys recite a poem and then spray the girl with perfume and in return receive a chocolate egg.  This tradition continues for teenagers and unmarried young men who travel around in the afternoon and evening going to both friends and acquaintances, spraying girls with perfume and receiving not a chocolate egg but food, drink and a time of fellowship.  It is not uncommon to see a car full of young men, old classmate’s home from university, traveling around together in the evening.  One morphing of this tradition is instead of spraying perfume, some boys throw buckets of water onto the girls.  It is a risky time for girls to walk around the village.  By the end of day, many girls smell from the concoction of various types and scents of perfumes, all combining into an unpleasant smell of cheap perfume. Maybe by this time a bucket of water is a welcomed thing.

Living among a Hungarian Reformed community in an Eastern Orthodox country produces two Christmases, two Easters, and two Pentecost’s (also a major holiday weekend).  Spring in Transcarpathia is a time of holidays; it starts with International Women’s Day on March 8, followed by a national holiday on March 15 for Hungarians.  A day remembering the 1848 revolution against the (at the time) ruling Austrians. This is followed by two Easter weekends, Labor Days on May 1 &2, Victory Day on May 9 (marking the end of WWII) and concluding with two Pentecost weekends.  This results in many school holidays, closed shops and canceled bus schedules. It is sometimes difficult for planning and scheduling classes and Bible studies.

We enjoyed celebrating and remembering Christ’s death and Resurrection over Easter with our brothers and sisters in Christ here in Transcarpathia.  We also enjoyed a visit from Stacey’s cousin, Mandy, over Easter. We hope and pray that everyone back home also had a blessed Easter.

About Eric Hoeksema

Stacey, my wife, and I are located in western Ukraine, living with and working among a Hungarian population in Transcarpathia, Ukraine.

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