Ukrainian Americans Preserve Traditions of Easter Celebration
Portland, OR, April 18, 2012. Approximately 8,000 miles away from Ukraine, the up-and-coming city of Portland, Oregon houses the Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Here, Ukrainian families gather to celebrate one of the oldest and biggest Ukrainian holidays - Easter. Despite the complete immersion into Western culture one faces when moving to the United States, these proud Ukrainian families continue to preserve their rich and strong Ukrainian traditions.
After the beautiful deliverance of the Easter sermon by Priest Ivan Petrustchak, the church members gathered excitedly in the church’s daylight basement. There, a new chapter commenced as the Priest ceremoniously blessed the masses of decorated Easter baskets filled with the tasty foods that have been forbidden during the 40 days of Lent. Shynka (ham), covbasa (sausage), syr (cheese), yaytsia (eggs), and maslo (butter) are just a handful of Ukrainian dishes containing the dairy and meat products that are not supposed to be consumed during the Easter Lent. For Ukrainians, following the 40 days of lent before Easter is crucial to the preservation of one’s culture and roots while in a different part of the world or environment. “What it takes to preserve a culture is more than just the right ingredients. Easter for us is a time of confirmation of faith. It is a means of which we’re meditative and use it as a period of reflection,” says Andrea, a longtime member of the church.
Most of the eastern European communities in Oregon share a similar story of “coming about”. Roughly 5,800 individuals of the entire Oregon state population are either first or second generation eastern European immigrants; most of whom are in fact Ukrainians. Many families have adopted the ways of their Western environment, while the others that are still transitioning manage to hold onto their Ukrainian traditions. Nonetheless an event such as Easter, that brings its people together, reflects the connectedness the Ukrainian people have to their forefathers’ roots, no matter where they are. “For our younger generations who are in American schools and are making new friends, it is sometimes difficult to hold onto old traditions and customs. And although it is difficult to hold onto some aspects of our culture while completely immersed in Western culture, we still prioritize our message of staying connected to people of the same upbringing. This way, we can continue to preserve the goodness of our Ukrainian ways,” says Priest Ivan.