MURRAY — The small Ukrainian community in the Salt Lake Valley was filled with joy as they celebrated a traditional Easter at Saint Jude Catholic Church in Murray April 8.
"We are only able to celebrate a Ukrainian Mass at Easter and Christmas because we don’t have a priest," said Oleh Kernytskyy, who arranged the celebration and has been in the United States 12 years. "I am very happy; this celebration makes me feel like I am at home. It lets us remember our parents and grandparents. We hold the Masses at St. Jude Parish because the Maronite rite is the most similar to the Ukrainians, which are like Greek Catholics," said Kernytskyy, who attends St. Jude Parish.
Father Roman Vorouchak came to Utah from Minneapolis, Minn., to celebrate the Mass. He is a pastor at Saint Constantine Ukrainian Catholic Church, where he serves 200 families. He was born in Ukraine and has been in the United States for five years.
The Easter celebration filled Oksana Holko with so much joy she was almost brought to tears. "It’s a great feeling because it has been 10 years since we moved here from Ukraine," she said. "This reminds me of our traditions, but the good thing is I will be going to Ukraine this week and will celebrate Easter again next week, like the Greek Easter."
"In Ukraine, the Resurrection celebration begins with a procession around the Church, accompanied by the ringing of the bells," Fr. Vorouchak said. "Women carry myrrh symbolizing the women who went to the tomb. We say ‘Khrystos Voskres,’ Christ is risen from death. The priest opens the door of the church, signifying opening the gates of heaven. After the procession, the liturgy is filled with different melodies and is celebrated with great solemnity."
Following the liturgy, the Easter baskets are blessed. The baskets are covered with an embroidered cover that symbolizes Christ’s shroud. A lit candle is placed in them to signify that Christ is the light of the world.
"The blessing of the baskets is symbolic of having food throughout the year for our families," said Kernytskyy. "The baskets are filled with decorated eggs (pysanky); sweet bread with raisins (paska), which symbolizes the joy of new life that is given by Jesus Christ; ham or Polish sausage (kovbasa), which is symbolic of the great joy and abundance of Easter. The basket also contains fruits and vegetables and butter, which remind the people of the goodness of Christ; salt, which helps them recall they are the salt of the earth; and horseradish mixed with beets, which is symbolic of the Passion and death of Christ."
Easter is an important religious holiday in Ukraine, said Oryslava Sorensen, a member of the Ukrainian community. "When we bless the food it is also a blessing for our soul," she said. "We also celebrate the rising of Christ. The Easter holiday is called Velyykden, meaning the Great Day."
The blessing of the baskets was followed by a lunch with traditional Ukrainian food including eggs, which are eaten first to signify life; and borscht (beet soup).
Kernytskyy remembers as a child participating in hahilky – singing, dancing and playing games in Ukraine. This symbolizes an awakening of all life in the spring with joyous festivals that express happiness, he said.
"This Easter celebration is very important for the Ukrainians to maintain their traditions and it’s very helpful for them to keep an identity with their culture," said Dr. J. Robert Malko, a member of the Ukrainian community and a professor of finance at Utah State University.