I thought I had Ukrainian culture figured out; but this weekend I was given the chance to grow my understanding of this unique county’s customs. I truly thank my host-family for allowing me to be a part of this traditional Orthodox ceremony, and wish the bride and groom a long and happy life. I was honored to witness these two people swear lifelong amalgamation before God.
The first part I remember about the weekend is the smiles of my host family, as the priest periodically through humor in the mix, of an overall serious traditional orthodox ceremony. There was a moment when the bride and the groom drank holy water from a cup, the cup had a little bit more water in it, and the priest (who is about 80 years old) turned to the young boy who handed him the cup and jokingly said, “drink.” Sure enough, the altar boy partook in the ceremonial drinking of water. A humanistic and humorous moment which showed me why the couple wanted to travel 3 hours from Poltava to a church in the Dnipro region, in order to have this particular priest reside over the very important religious ceremony.
I also remember the longevity in which the Godparents had to hold crowns over the bride and groom’s head. The crowns signify a new opportunity for the new couple, a very old and rich tradition, which is a blessing upon the couple going forward with their union. After the ceremony, I made sure to point out to the Godparents that their stamina was noted and admired. A small example of the devotion Ukrainians have to those they love.
Lastly, an extraordinary experience needs an extraordinary cake. The traditional wedding cake in Ukraine is called “Korovai” (which you will see in my arms in the photo above). This “cake” cannot really be called a cake, because it is kind of a mix between cake and bread, very similar to the Paska served during Easter time. Again, a fine example of why Ukrainian culture is very distinct. There may be certain aspects where I would like to fit it into our western mentality, but the pureness of tradition is so unique, someone from the United States would need to be immersed inside the culture to truly identify with the people.
*These are the thoughts and ideas of Richard J. Roman, and are not those of the Peace Corps or its affiliates.