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Getting Ready for Holy Pascha
By June Anderson

As I remember, it was the same every year; the whole house had to be cleaned from top to bottom. It wasn't a big deal; it just had to be done. All the walls, whether painted or wallpapered had to be washed (a Saturday job), all the windows had to be washed on the inside and of course all the curtains had to be washed and ironed. The living room curtains were a semi-sheer and after washing had to be hung on these big stretchers with sharp pins sticking out of them so that when dry, they would once again be the right size to fit the living room windows. Of course, they needed to be starched and ironed, as did all the curtains. The hardwood floors had to be washed and waxed and the area rugs needed to be taken outside and beaten. The overstuffed furniture had to vacuumed like it had never been cleaned before even though it was on my list to do every week. There couldn't be a spot of dust left anywhere. Even the kitchen cabinets had to have everything removed, washed and put back neatly. Somewhere there was an unwritten rule, Pascha could not happen until the whole house was ready and lent was the time to accomplish this.

As lent progressed, it was time to get the Pascha music ready. As I grew up, all the church services were sung in "Church Slovanic", which means I didn't have a clue what I was singing, but when your Mother is the choir director and she sings alto and you sing soprano, you sing! I always loved singing with my Mom and it was always fun practicing with her. I had to memorize all the music, but I didn't mind, I felt it an honor to be able to sing in church. There was always a stack of church books on the window sill during lent and late at night, I could always find my Mom studying these books and making little notes in the margins; always making sure everything would be just perfect. It's been 75 years and she is still the choir director today!

Holy Week was always the busiest. This was the week the baking was done besides everything else. There was the Artos to bake for church, which meant make three and see which one turns out the best. All three always turned out perfectly, but the other two went into the freezer for after Pascha. Then it was time to bake the Kulich and of course, make three and again decide which one was the tallest and best to go into the Pascha Basket. Mom was such a great baker. Her dough was always the sweetest and most tender and tasted better every year. About this time, there was a church service to attend. Luckily we lived very near the church. Many times she came home just in time to punch the bread dough down. Then there was the ham to boil and the fresh and smoked sausage to cook. She would always boil the eggs ahead of time and we would color them together; I don't think she slept much of Holy Week. More church services. Wednesday night, Thursday morning, Thursday night, Fri day afternoon, Friday night, Saturday morning, One by one, the books left the window sill.

Mom would mix the horseradish with some of her homemade pickled beets until it was just right and then fill the special little jar with the mixture. You understand, everything had to be in special containers, so that in the blink of an eye, when Fr. was ready to bless the baskets, all the covers were off and all the food was exposed so that the Holy Water touched every bit of food in the basket! There was also butter and cheese and "cirnaya pascha" which was a glorious blend of cream cheese and vanilla and it made a delightfull spread on your Kulich. Yum! Wine always made its way into out basket as did a blessed candle. Finally, it was time for my Dad to carry the carefully filled Pascha Basket to the basement of the church to await its blessing and we went into the darkened church for the midnight Divine Liturgy. The wind blew cold. Dad bought our candles for the procession and we sat in stillness, waiting, just waiting; excitement rising inside myself!

The basket was never used for anything else during the year, but saved especially as our "Pascha Basket". Mom had made a beautiful basket cover with a three bar cross and Easter lilies on it many years before and it covered all those delicious foods and then, after laundering, was again wrapped in tissue paper and saved for the next year.

Mom made sure I always had a new outfit to wear too. She sewed so beautifully. She never said she had too much to do, she just did it. If Pascha wasn't too early, magically tomato plants appeared in little trays at the east window on the porch. Of course there were cows to milk twice a day and all the farm chores, lenten meals to prepare for my Dad and I and all the rest, but Mom managed to get all the rest of this done without so much as a sigh. I wish I could be more like my Mom!

Christ Is Risen! Indeed He Is Risen!

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