On Easter morning I visited our local Orthodox Church, which is just across the street from our place. This church is part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), which claims the largest number of adherents of any church in Ukraine.
As I say in the video, they have their main worship service at midnight on the eve of Easter. I wasn’t there for that service but you can see how the midnight service looked in Kiev’s Pecherskaya Lavra in the video below.
One important aspect of Orthodox tradition is bringing the “Blessed Flame” from Jerusalem to all the Orthodox Churches in the Slavic world. This flame is said to miraculously appear in Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning. The flame is also said to miraculously not burn a person’s skin and that is why you often see people waving their hands through it. Those who attend the Easter services usually purchase a candle which is lit by the blessed flame and then brought home in order to bless their home.
Later on Easter morning after the midnight service, the people will come to back to the church for the blessing on their Easter baskets. Of course, there are far fewer people who show up for the midnight service than who come for the basket blessing later! The lines at our church were quite long.
Everyone came with their Easter basket in hand, waiting in line for the priest to bless it with his holy water. If you want to know the history behind the sprinkling tradition you can check out this post.
Inside the basket are usually items that people have not been able to eat because of Lent, although it’s rare for people here to follow the diet restrictions of Lent.
This will probably include Paskha bread, sausage, eggs, wine, and salt, although these things can be different from church to church and person to person. Some also include vodka or konyak but most churches frown on this practice.
The people move slowly waiting in line for the priest to bless their basket. This is usually all done outdoors since there is simply not room to accommodate the thousands who come on Easter morning.
Finally, the people reach the priest who is standing behind a table on top of which is a large plastic bucket filled with holy water. (Our Orthodox Church had 5 tables set up to accommodate all the people.) He takes his aspergillum (the brush) and dips it in the water then douses the basket and the face of the person holding the basket.
The person then places a donation into the large offering box placed next to the bucket of water or they simply slip the cash into the hand of the priest.
After the basket has been blessed the people take the blessed goods and have a picnic.