MINGO JUNCTION - Along with chocolate bunnies and colorful jelly beans, a centuries-old traditional bread was enjoyed Sunday by many Ohio Valley residents on Orthodox Easter.
Pascha, or Easter bread, is not only a sweet treat to eat, but is a reminder of the religious significance of the holiday. The Rev. John Kopcha, pastor of St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Mingo Junction, said the rising of the dough signifies the rising of Christ from the dead.
"And the pascha symbolizes Christ himself," he said.
CELEBRATION — Wearing an apron and head scarf, 3-year-old Elana Hazelip stands in front of many loaves of pascha, or Easter bread, while her mother Larissa Hazelip brushes the tops of the freshly-baked bread with butter at St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Mingo Junction.
-- Shelly Hanson
Orthodox churches use the Julian calendar, established by Julius Caesar, instead of the standard Gregorian calendar. Churches that follow the Gregorian calendar celebrated Easter April 8, while Orthodox churches celebrated it on Sunday, according to the Julian calendar.
Kopcha's wife Paula said the traditional bread has been made at the church for more than 50 years.
"Probably since the beginning of time," she quipped.
Church member Joan Vasich makes all of the dough for the bread and is assisted by her husband Harry. Many other parishioners help bake the dough into loaves sold to the public and other parishioners.
"I couldn't do it without him," Vasich said of her husband.
The church began making and taking orders for plain and raisin breads that were to be baked during a two-day period - April 2-3. Vasich said 120, large round, golden brown loaves had been baked as of April 3.
While on her way to pick up her loaves, Steubenville resident Barbara Losey said her mother was Russian Orthodox, but now she attends a Protestant church.
She continues to carry on many of the traditions she learned while growing up.
But now instead of making the bread herself, she orders it from St. Andrew.
She remembers the traditional baskets of food the family would make to take to church to have blessed before eating it. It contained the pascha, meats, cheeses, hardboiled eggs and more.
"That basket was heaven," Losey noted.
Vasich said while she's making the dough she tends to bless each batch when it hits the pan, as she hopes they will bake correctly and taste delicious.
"Sweet bread has lots of eggs and sugar. ... It's good sweet bread. After Lent you want something good and sweet," Vasich said.
Lent is a time of fasting before Easter.
Vasich also makes the dough for nut rolls sold during Christmastime. And she plans to start making flat bread to sell as a fundraiser for the church.