Tag Archives: easter

Christ is Risen

Piece
R: “Christ is Risen!”
O: “He is Risen Indeed!”
Context
On Easter, one would greet another those they meet with “Christ is Risen!” and that person is supposed to respond with “He is Risen Indeed!”
The informant makes this exchange with people at their church and family members when waking them in the morning. They learned it from members of their childhood church.
My Thoughts
This exchange of ritualistic words is to celebrate and proclaim what Christians believe to be the most important part of Easter, the miracle of Christ’s resurrection. It is in response to Jesus’s benediction (after his resurrection) in Matthew 28:18-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”. It could also be a method of distinguishing who is a Christian and who isn’t throughout the day.

Ukrainian Easter Traditions

The following is a transcribed interview between me and interviewee, hereby further referred to as MT.

MT: We are Greek Catholics, so that’s basically between Greek orthodox and Roman Catholic and so we celebrate on the Greek Orthodox Easter, which is a week after the popular Roman Catholic Easter.

Me: Ok, and how do you celebrate Easter in your village in Ukraine?

MT: There are a lot of things that just have to be done on Easter, it’s kind of a big deal. So, one of the biggest things is this special bread called “Pascha.” My mom, and all the women, typically spend lots of time and make sure they have all the ingredients to make this fresh holiday bread. They also make sausage and jams and all sorts of stuff like that. But the bread is really the main thing – that simply cannot be substituted. And then when the food is done, usually it’s like a day or two in prep, they put a small bit of each kind of food and sometimes some other stuff, depending on how religious your family is, in a basket. Like, just a classic woven basket. 

And then they send one person from the family to the church with the basket so it can be blessed by the priest. Now, this part where us and our food gets blessed by the priest is like a game. So basically everyone waiting to be blessed by the priest stands in a large circle and the priest goes around blessing everyone and their stuff. And everyone makes room for everyone else like a large rotating circle like as soon as the priest blesses someone that spot gets switched out for someone else in the circle if it’s crowded. But no one can leave until the priest goes back to the center and blesses the cross and positions it perfectly. And so sometimes the priest goofs off and like takes his time doing that because everyone wants to rush, I mean like truly run home because supposedly the first one to get back home will be lucky the whole year. So the priest plays with them, if he’s fun, and then everyone fights to be the luckiest man of the year. It’s really funny but yeah we have to do that every year, the whole town gets involved. 

Me: Wow, cool. Do you also do colored eggs like in many other traditions?

MT: Oh, yeah. We do the colored eggs and stuff too, it’s a very busy time of year with lots of running round and food. Just so much food. 

Me: Hahaha

Background:

Interviewee, MT, is from LViv, Ukraine. His family is from a village called Rodatichi in Ukraine. He immigrated to America at age 13, but returns home for occasions. He has lived in Sherman Oaks, CA for the rest of his life thus far and has been happily married to my mom for 11 years. He has been a part of and seen this easter tradition happen all growing up.

Context:

This interview was conducted over lunch at our family home, so it was very casual. He has many stories about the customs of his country that he usually shares with me so it was just like any number of our usual conversations. 

Thoughts:This bread and blessing ceremony is interesting. The bread is pronounced pas-ka and in some languages, it is just the name of Easter. By collecting various Easter traditions from different countries, I’m learning that food and eggs typically play a big part in Easter festivities, no matter the region. What is interesting is that everything in this custom must be home-made. This must be because there have been minimal resources in villages and so women became the homemakers and chefs, especially for holidays. I liked the idea that this custom has grown and changed in order to have humor and recognize the simplicity of being blessed with holiday cheer. I’m sure not everyone can actually know if they were the first person home from church, but I bet it’s nice to think you are.

Tsougrisma

The following is a transcribed interview conducted over a video chat between me and interviewee, hereby further referred to as SM.

Me: So how do you celebrate Easter?

SM: Well, not all families do this, but my family plays this game every Easter called tsougrisma, it’s a Greek name but many countries have their variations, like Armenia – which is where I think we got it because our country houses many Armenians. Anyways, the game goes like this: each person picks an egg. And then, in pairs of two, they duel by hitting the eggs on top of each other and the first person who’s egg cracks loses. The goal is to have the hardest shelled egg or like some technique of holding it (but I’m not sure if I believe in technique, I think it’s mostly luck.) But yeah, so if your egg wins then you battle the other winners and you keep going like that until the two strongest eggs battle and the winner of that one is the super egg. Supposedly if your egg wins this, you will have great luck for the next year. 

Me: And do you dye the eggs, like in many other traditions?

SM: Oh yeah, we dye them all sorts of colors but I know my aunt’s families are more traditional in a lot of things they do and they dye them red each year for some reason. Sometimes we do it with their family too, because as you can imagine, the game is much more fun with more people – more eggs to battle!

Background:

Interviewee was born and raised in America, but his parents are both Lebanese. He lived in Dubai during his teen years and has always had very close ties to Lebanon. He visits Lebanon at least once a year and speaks with his parents regularly, where they speak in Arabic and often chat about history. They also all continually practice many Lebanese and Arabic traditions and share folklore. 

Context: 

This interview was conducted over a video call. Interviewee and I are romantically involved, so the conversation was very open and casual. He was very willing to help out and share some of his culture’s lore. 

Thoughts:

This was the first time that I had heard of this Easter tradition. It seems to be quite varied in what region celebrates this tradition because it is widespread, yet isn’t typically celebrated all over Lebanon. Interviewee is from the northern region of Lebanon from a village in the mountain called Al Coura. While it is possible that the tradition emerged from the villagers, because there are other variations of this tradition all over the Middle East and Greek-influenced countries that I think it is safe to say that interviewee’s family was influenced by the Greeks and adapted the tradition to make a fun Easter tradition with some historical significance. In the classic Greek or Armenian game, the smashing of the eggs is supposed to represent smashing of sin. And so, the winner is most sacred. While I’m sure it doesn’t hold the same sentiment in modern times, especially in non-religious families, it is still a fun way to celebrate.

Greek Orthodox Easter

The following is a transcribed interview conducted over a video chat between me and interviewee, hereby further referred to as WN.

Me: So when do you celebrate Easter?

WN: We celebrate Easter following the Julian Calendar, or the traditional calendar. This means that our Easter is one week after the non-Orthodox Easter, the one popular in America. This year we celebrated April 19th.

Me: And why do you celebrate it one week after?

WN: Oh, because there’s a huge feud of the calendars between the Orthodox Church and the modern church. The argument is that we should be celebrating on the actual day it was supposed to be celebrated on than the day that fits with the Pagan calendar. 

Me: What do you mean that the other Easter fits with the Pagan calendar?

WN: Well, once there started getting many popular religions, there was a split between the Roman Catholic church and the Greek Orthodox. The Catholic church altered and adhered to a different calendar while we stuck with the original Julian Calendar. 

Me: Ok, cool thank you!

Background:

Interviewee was born and raised in a village called Bechmezzine in Al Coura, Lebanon. He is the Uncle of a close friend of mine who was gracious enough to speak with me. He is a fluent English speaker and has spent lots of time in America, as some of his family lives here, but he currently lives in Lebanon. He is a christian and his native language is Arabic. 

Context: 

This interview was conducted on a video call. Because he is my dear friend’s uncle, we had spoken some before this conversation but not often. That being said, the conversation was really casual and he was very willing to share some of his folklore. 

Thoughts:

This is an example in some of the variations on holidays, especially Christian holidays. Each region celebrates their own versions of holidays – especially religious holidays. The variation is endless and it was nice to hear exactly why Lebanon, in particular, celebrates the Greek Orthodox Easter. While some other countries do, each one has their own reasoning. The reasoning here is clearly that they believe they are being truer to the religion and the purpose of the holidays by honoring Easter, as is customary to determine the Greek Orthodox. So, in short, they are just being extra cautious and traditional when celebrating on this day, despite being not as traditional in many other ways. 
For more explanation on why this holiday is on this day, see here: https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/common/orthodox-easter-day

Carnival: South America’s Pre-Lent Festival

Main Piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between me (LT) and my informant (JZ). 

JZ: Carnival happens for a reason, but it’s not for me, really. Honestly, no one knows, or no one cares… But it is religious related. I did look it up once, though… It always happens before Ash Wednesday, which starts lent.

LT: So it’s kind of like Mardis Gras? 

JZ: Yes. But it’s for everyone, even people like me, who are Jewish. Everybody just takes time off, and enjoys… There’s a saying… “the year doesn’t start until after Carnival ends,” and it’s true! Like it really doesn’t start. It’s not a joke. Everyone is waiting insanely for Carnival. Everyone travels Friday night, and it goes alllll the way until Wednesday. So everyone travels, and goes to these crazy crazy parties, and sometimes, when you get older, you don’t even need to go to the big festivals, you just go to the parties. And the parties have… temas?

LT: Themes.

JZ: Yes, so they’re all these different parties with different themes… They’re like… the neighborhood parties. 

LT: Block parties? 

JZ: But not really, they’re much much bigger. They’re like parades, and you stop and drink in the street. But you dress up in costumes and then go from party to party… But just so you understand, I’ve been to where Carnival actually happens only once in my entire life. No one cares, just gringos go there. We just party in the streets. It’s the greatest party you’ve ever gone to in your life. 

Background: 

My informant is my sister-in-law who is from São Paulo, Brazil. She grew up travelling to Rio de Janeiro every year for Carnival, and cannot remember her first one: “It has always been a tradition.” She is Jewish, so she does not partake in the religious aspect of Carnival, and her favorite part is “having fun with friends and family, and even strangers, just drinking and celebrating life.” 

Context: 

I Facetime by brother and sister-in-law often, and this piece was collected during one of our regular calls. 

Thoughts: 

To me, Carnival speaks to how Brazilians value enjoying life and celebration. In America, it sounds crazy to take almost a full week off of work to go party and drink. However, in Brazil, it’s not crazy, it’s normal. Generally speaking, it seems as though Americans are often much more serious and plan for the future, whereas Brazilians are more laid-back and live in the moment. I love the way my sister-in-law talked about how people of all backgrounds, from all different places, come together to celebrate Carnival, even the ones who don’t know its original religious significance. Although I’ve never been, I think of Carnival as being a welcoming, lighthearted, and colorful way for people to join together and just have fun. 

For further reading on Carnival’s origin and history:

Brown, Sarah. “How Did Brazil’s Carnival Start?” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 4 Jan. 2018. 

Decorating “Easter Trees”

MAIN PIECE

Decorating “Easter Trees”

“For some reason, we used to decorate the trees around our house like most people would Christmas trees.  Many people in the south have egg-like ornaments and easter colored string lights, like purples and yellows and greens and bright blues.  It was much more prevalent in South Carolina when I lived there.”

BACKGROUND

This informant, HA, was born in Pensacola, FL but has lived in a few different parts of the American South for awhile, specifically the Floribama coastal area.  His family has stayed in the south for as far back as he can remember.  He has learned this piece of folklore from when he moved to the suburbs of Charleston and his family were the only ones on the block that didn’t do it in their first year there.

CONTEXT

I talked to HA by inviting them onto a zoom call with a few other friends we both knew from summer vacations where I used to live in Panama City, Florida.  After the call I asked if he could stay and chat and we shared stories about our lives while I asked him questions about sayings and activities he remembered from his childhood.

THOUGHTS

There is a very heavily held belief among Americans that Southern culture is a bit more gentile and ornate than the rest of the country so it’s fascinating to see a piece of folklore that supports this idea.  What interests me is how this decorating differs between people of different financial statuses.  Looking more into it, it seems like a competitive game as well as it seems articles state that people can try and outdo other people’s easter trees.

The Greek Egg Tradition

G: I can start with Easter since that just happened. One of the main traditions is the boiling of these red eggs. And the red is supposed to represent the blood of Jesus when he was crucified- and you crack them with other people after doing a set of sayings: one person says “Christ is risen” and the other person says “truly he is risen” and then you crack eggs with each other and whoever’s egg doesn’t crack “wins”. It’s supposed to mean something if your egg doesn’t crack but I can’t remember.

In the Orthodox tradition, eggs are a symbol of new life. Eggs were used by early Christians to represent the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This, in turn, symbolizes the rebirth or renewal of all those who believe in Christianity. The Orthodox custom is to dye Easter eggs a dark red color. Red represents the blood of Jesus Christ and victory. These eggs are sometimes decorated with etchings or the holy cross on the face.

For the informant, this tradition is a monumental piece of their Greek heritage which is why it’s so important. The winner of this game is said to have good luck for the rest of the year. I see this tradition as a way for Christians to remember Jesus’ sacrifice. I also see this as a fun way to bring families together. The mere celebration of Easter is sacred and should be experienced with people who love you. Eggs have forever been seen as a symbol of life and, in a way, playing this game symbolizes the renewal of familial bonds.

For another account of this game, please see Venetia Newall’s (1971) An Egg at Easter: A Folklore Studyp. 344

Red Eggs on Easter

Context: My informant – identified as N.D. – and I were on a FaceTime call. She is of Greek and Peruvian decent, but goes to school in Manhattan, New York. While catching up, I decided to ask her whether she maintains her cultural traditions while at school.

 

Background: While discussing the upcoming holiday of Easter, my informant described a generations-old Greek Orthodox tradition that she has practiced with her family for years. Her father’s family participated in the tradition in Greece, and she and all of her relatives have continued the tradition after having moved to Miami.

 

Main Piece: “The night before Easter Sunday my parents always dye the eggs red. We used to do it all together when my sisters and I were little, but as we got older we got a little less involved but they always kept it going. My dad and his entire family have been doing this for years in Greece and since his family is very religious it’s really important to him that we keep the tradition going. The red dye on the egg symbolizes the blood of Christ that was on the cross ‘for us’. Then the morning of Easter when we’re all sitting together, we start cracking the red eggs, and that symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection, because the egg represents his tomb, and it also represents new life. Since I moved to New York for school this is one tradition I haven’t kept up with on my own and neither have any of my sisters. Our family definitely isn’t that religious even though my dad is Greek Orthodox, things like this are just traditions we would do as a family to spend quality time and celebrate together. It also kept us really entertained when we were younger.”

 

Analysis: This Greek tradition is an interesting take on the symbolism of eggs on Easter. Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus emerging from his tomb, but most cultures, especially in America, choose to decorate the eggs in colorful patterns to celebrate the coming of spring. This Greek Orthodox take on the deeply-rooted tradition is one of great solidarity with Christ, in order to remind oneself of the sacrifice he made.

 

La Pasquetta

Context: My informant is a 22 year-old student of Italian descent. She and I were discussing the upcoming holidays – Passover and Easter – that we planned on celebrating with our families. She mentioned an Easter tradition celebrated exclusively among Italians.

 

Background: The tradition described below is called La Pasquetta or, Easter Monday. My informant explained that the tradition is deeply rooted in Italian history and culture. She was not sure how it began, but it’s been celebrated in her family for generations.

 

Main Piece: “The day after Easter has always been my favorite part of the holiday for me. For Italians, Easter day is more reflective and has a somber vibe to it, but the Monday after is the exact opposite. My dad usually invites his family over, which means like 50 people at our house and we have a big barbeque, him and his brothers cook another feast, and we spend the day outside in the sun. I think the point of having La Pasquetta is to rejoice after a day of mourning. In Italy everyone celebrates it. My dad says everyone would take that day off, go to the park and have picnics. It’s a day to celebrate Easter in a happier way, but also to celebrate spring and being surrounded by family. It’s kind of a staple in Italy and my family definitely hasn’t let go of it even after moving to America. The holiday definitely has some historical aspects to it, but I’m not 100% how or where it started. All I know is that my family has celebrated it forever.”

 

Analysis: It’s interesting to see how one religion’s holiday is celebrated in so many different ways across cultures. In American culture, Easter is typically a happy day, celebrated with family. In Greek and Italian culture, it’s a more somber day, usually spent in church. To compensate for a day of mourning, Italians choose to have their celebration the day after.

Coin in the Cake

Context: My informant is a 21 year-old student from New York, who recently moved to Los Angeles to attend USC. She wasn’t able to go home for Easter this year, as she usually does, but she described a tradition that her family practices every year on Easter.

 

Background: She explained that this tradition normally takes place in Greek tradition on New Year’s Eve, but that her family celebrates it on Easter instead, as she and her siblings usually spend New Year’s with friends.

 

Main Piece: “So this is usually done on New Years, but we always do it on Easter since that’s one holiday Greek Orthodox people take very seriously, so we’re almost always all together as a family. We’re always separated on New Years so this is just the best time to do this tradition I guess. Basically, my mom or grandma will bake a cake, and they bake a gold coin into the cake itself. They put it in the oven, take it out, and then they cut it all up and serve it. The person who gets the piece with the coin in it is supposed to have the luckiest year out of everyone else. Essentially it’s going to be like their golden year. It kind of defeats the purpose that we do it in April of every year, but Easter also represents rebirth and whatnot so I guess it kind of works when you think about it.”

 

Analysis: It’s interesting to see how much a culture’s folklore can be taken into interpretation. The meaning remains the same, but the tradition is made flexible. I found it compelling how many different traditions there are throughout cultures to ensure a lucky or prosperous year ahead.