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Sudburians share their Easter traditions

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 BY HEIDI ULRICHSEN
Reprinted from Northern Life Easter 2015 with updates
Easter Sunday will be celebrated  by most Christians on March 27, 2016.  The Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar and will not celebrate this high holiday until May. 1
Many the Easter season means chocolate eggs but for the day, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, on the third day after his death on the cross, is one of the most significant religious events on the Christian calendar.
People of British/Irish heritage enjoy hot cross buns, devilled eggs and often a dinner of ham or lamb.
(Eggs have been associated with Easter celebrations throughout history; in ancient times it was thought the egg represented fertility and new beginnings. For Christians, the resurrection is symbolic of new beginnings and represented by the giving and receiving of eggs.)*
Did you know Greeks eat a soup made of lamb intestines called magiritsa for Easter?
How about that Ukrainians use pussywillows instead of palms on Palm Sunday?
Or that Finns eat a type of Easter dessert called Mämmi made of rye flour, molasses and powdered Seville orange zest?
For others, though, the holiday is also a chance to reconnect with their cultural roots.Sophia Moutsatsos, a local Greek dancer, said she has fond childhood memories of Easter. Her family would often get together with other Greek families to roast lamb over a spit
.“It would be a time that everyone gets together and celebrates Easter and the coming of spring,” Moutsatsos said.
Moutsatsos said they would attend an Easter service on Saturday night, which would start in darkness, that lessened as the candles held by each celebrant would be lit.
After the service, they’d go home and eat magiritsa soup. When asked if she enjoys the delicacy, Moutsatsos laughs.“I don’t know,” she said. “You just eat it, I guess.”Greeks also dye eggs red to signify the blood of Christ, and then crack them together
.“The person whose egg doesn’t crack amongst all of your loved ones, you have good luck for the year,” Moutsatsos said.Lydia Katulka, a member of the Ukrainian Seniors Centre, said pussywillows are used for Palm Sunday instead of palms, as the plant is native to Ukraine.
She said the plant continues to be used here for that purpose.Dishes eaten on Easter day — typically rich foods forbidden during lent, including eggs — are blessed by the priest.“We also start our Easter morning breakfast with a hard-boiled, blessed egg that is divided up into the number of people who will be taking part in the breakfast,” Katulka said.More well-known among Ukrainian Easter traditions is pysanky, the intricate decoration of eggs using wax, a stylus and dye.Katulka said she started learning pysanky at the age of six, and became quite skilled, although she hasn’t done it in years. The art of pysanky is strong in Sudbury, with workshops being held every year.La Casa Mexicana owner Sylvia Rios said her home country of Mexico is 90-percent Catholic, and as such, Easter is an important holiday there.

Rios said her family spent a lot of time in church, and then on Easter day, they’d eat a vegetarian meal, which usually involved mole, a dish made with more than 40 ingredients, including peppers and chocolate.

Married to a French-Canadian, Rios said she adopted Canadian Easter traditions like egg hunts when her children were small, but still retains a strong emotional connection to her Mexican traditions.

Because her father was a Lutheran minister, Easter was a religious holiday in her Finnish home when Kristiina Skogberg was growing up.

Now the cultural co-ordinator at Finlandia, Skogberg said she does have some Easter remembrances beyond church. She said children grew grass from seed at school, and brought them home, and stuck fabric chicks on top.

Mämmi, the traditional Easter dessert eaten by Finns, is sold here in Sudbury at Leinala’s Bakery. Skogberg said she’s not fond of the dish herself, but it’s a tradition, so she serves it anyway.

Christine Sansalone, chair of the Caruso Club’s culture and education committee, said Italian Easter traditions mostly include attending church and eating large meals.

Among the foods eaten on Easter are colomba di pasqua — the Easter version of panettone — as well as eggs blessed by the priest and large hollow chocolate eggs with small toys inside.

Sansalone, who grew up in Mississauga and Tuscany, Italy, said she loves how strong Italian traditions are here in Sudbury.

Easter is “a very important time for the Italian community,” she said. “It’s a time to come together, a time to celebrate not only your religious beliefs, but your own culture and their own traditions.”

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