On Easter people greet each other with "Christ has risen." The correct response is, "he has risen, indeed." We learned this last year, and were ready this Easter.
It's difficult to explain what a huge holiday Easter is in Ukraine. It's a lot like Christmas in the U.S., with a huge, though less commercial, build-up for weeks beforehand.
We got to Pryluky without hassle. Took a nearly empty morning express train to Kyiv, and hopped on the first marshrutka to Pr'ky. Little did we know, our old host father Valera is now driving the Kyiv-Pr'ky route, and we could have gotten a ride with him had we waited about an hour. We arrived in town early, and only Babusya T was home. We tried to chat with her a bit, but she informed us she was watching a film, so we gave up on that.
Later, Larysa came home and we ate dinner. Our friends Kris and Jen were coming into town later on a bus, but we would wait to see them Saturday. Valera got home, and he and Larry immediately enjoyed "5 drops" (of guess what?) together, though I wasn't invited to partake. We sat around the table and chatted like old times. Valera informed us that our Ukrainian was much worse, and that I, in particular, needed to go back to school. I decided not to tell him that my intermediate level of Ukrainian is a lot better than his English, and is the only reason why we can converse in the first place. =)
Saturday, we dyed eggs with onion skins (not red onions, but the yellow ones). Try it! They turn a beautiful red. We put these plastic strips around them that shrink up when you dip them in boiling water. So they look like traditional Ukrainian "pysanka," to the untrained eye.
Babusya L across the street has already baked her famous Easter bread by the time we arrived, since Saturday was also a holiday this year and no one could work. It was delicious, as we remembered. Though this year we knew not to overdo it. You should never fill yourself up during a meal, because you never know how soon again you'll be eating. This fact, K & J were reminded of as they ate 3 times before 1pm on Easter! We were lucky and I think we only ate 3 times that day. Also, there is a tradition for young women to eat the bread of 12 different paska loaves. This will make you get married soon.
We went to church to get the basket blessed on Saturday, after dying the eggs and preparing the meat. Yes, that's mayonnaise on the meat. We used a whole packet (the yellow thing sitting there), and it was tasty! She boiled it before baking it for a couple hours in a plastic bag. I got to help with that preparation while Larry sat and watched. Little did they know that if we were to repeat that recipe in our home in the future, he would most likely be the one in charge.
We stood in a circle around the outside of the church with our baskets in front of us. The basket contains: meat, eggs, salt, cheese, horse radish, and sometimes wine. They believe that the blessed food is healthier for you and doesn't go bad. Valera told us that if you put a blessed egg and a regular egg side by side, the regular one would go bad after some time but the blessed egg could last a year or more. We decided not to test that theory.
Another fun part of Easter are "egg wars." You tap your egg, once on each side, against someone else's to see whose cracks. The winner takes the other person's cracked egg and eats it. I had the champion egg for a long time, which I got tired of finally because I wanted to eat it. Here you can see Larry and Kris in the middle of a battle. Then Kris' champion egg took on Toli.
What I love about this holiday is how special it is to Ukrainians. We could not have spent it in a better place, with our original "Ukrainian families." They were so good to us, and took us into their homes when we knew nothing of the language or culture. We spent hours around the table, like on Easter, discussing everything from the current politcal situation (grumble, grumble), to Dancing with the Stars, to teaching experiences and our family back in the States.
It was great to see our best PC friends, and to reminisce about when we first arrived in Ukraine. Pr'ky was so confusing, and everything was intimidating. Returning to that city we felt at ease, like seasoned veterans playing an old game. We're lucky to have such a comfortable place to return to, to remind us of what extensive goodness exists here. It's a reminder of what it was like when we came here, and how far we've come since then.