Monday, 16 April 2012

Ukrainian Easter holidays.. in the village. Part 1.

And now it's Easter's turn. This year I spend the holidays not the Greek way, but the traditional Ukraine way, in a typical Ukraine village. Named Bogdanivka.

And it was a nice change.

During the road trip from the city, I had a change to get a glimpse of Ukrainian countryside. It is so different from what I have seen so far and of course from Greek landscapes - everything is so flat and vast. You look at the horizon and the only thing you notice is small hills or even further plains.

There was not so much green around, except from grass, because just in the beginning of the previous week there was snow around, so nature hadn't had time to adjust to spring colors yet. I was also told that snow this time of year is uncommon, and that the weather is usually warmer than as it was.

On Saturday when we arrived at the grandparents' house, the first thing we did was to eat. Later I discovered, that that would be our main activity - along with sleeping. A lot. But after eating the whole family went to the field to plant potatoes, and I helped - just a little bit. :p

Afterwards we took a small walk to the pond and forest nearby the house. During this walk I found about a white flower that is called snowdrop which grows when the snow is just starting to melt and that is protected by law, because unfortunately there are not many around anymore. :\

But that was only the first walk I took that weekend, because later in the day, when the sun had set we went for a small walk in the road in the direction of the rest of the village. I forgot to mention that in that village, the houses were not close to each other, but apparently had quite a distance. What was extraordinary about that walk was the total darkness. We were walking without any light across the fields and by the sound of small mouses and frogs. It was quite peculiar, for a city girl!, because I don't get to see that often. But it was a nice relaxing feeling, a feeling of peace. Too bad that there were clouds and that we couldn't see the stars.

And Saturday was still not over - remember there is also the religious part. Ukrainians are Christian Orthodox just like Greeks. I found out that we were not going to attend church the hours we usually do in Greece, but on the contrary, at 4am. Yes, you heard right. We slept until something like 3:30 and then woke up to go directly to the village church. But the first thing I heard when I woke up was: "Don't wash your face. It's a tradition". I was later to discover why, but that was kind of unpleasant to hear in the first place. :p

Anyway, after some minutes we arrived in the church and there I was told that I had to put something to cover my head in order to enter the church. It's their way of doing things -all women do it- and if one doesn't comply, she is considered disrespectful. So, veil on, I entered the church - we only stayed for a few minutes, but it was enough for me to examine the interior. The church was quite simple and I guess still under construction - most of the walls were still white. The ceremony was similar to our own - ok, I didn't understand what they were chanting, but I could feel the atmosphere - but there was one considerable difference: apart from the main priest there were no other men chanting, but women. As far as I know, that is not allowed in Greek churches.

After the ceremony was over, we went outside the church to complete the formation that was already structured - people were standing in a row facing the church and having in their feet laid flat traditional cloth and baskets full of Easter cakes and food with lighted candles. I was curious as to why this was happening. And I soon discovered that everybody was waiting for the priest to pass from one to one and spray them with holy water. First in the face and then the food. Aha! revelation! that's why I was told not to wash my face. Having a 'dirty face' symbolises your old self and the 'holy-water-cleaned face' your new self - your personal resurrection. People also gave something like 2 Hryvnas(~20 Euro cents) to the guy following following the priest. Something for the church I guess.

And that's was the church celebration of Easter! Interesting, right? And also no fireworks or loud noises made by crackers. Nice.

Also one random fact I got to hear on our way back to the house was this: After the fall of communism and the Soviet Union in Ukraine, churches begun to pop out and appear out of nowhere - especially in the countryside. The friend who told me this also added that it was like people replaced the fathers of communism that they adored and admired with God. That they replaced their 'old gods' with a new one.

P.S: Now, don't go anywhere, there's more! That was only Saturday, there is also Sunday ahead!

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