Carpatho-Rusyns are one of the major ethnic groups of Pennsylvania. From the time they settled the state’s small towns and cities in the late 1870s until the present time, Carpatho-Rusyns have left an indelible mark on the state, and their story should be told. This blog is about a project that will do just that. Read more

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Picturing Pascha (and Paskas!)

Father Aleksij Tovt/Toth blessing Paschal food, location = ?
Хрістос воскрес! Воістину воскрес!
Christos voskres! Voistynu voskres!
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

Anyone who follows Carpatho-Rusyn Facebook groups such as Carpatho-Rusyns Everywhere! and Lemko Rusyns and Friends would have seen a deluge over the last two weeks of wonderful photographs of food preparation for Easter -- paskas, hrudka/sŷrec/jaječnyk, butter lambs, chrin; the elaborately assembled baskets of the foods taken for blessing; the moving vigils at the Tomb of Christ, and photos and videos of the services and the blessing of the Paschal foods.

It occurs to me that despite these beloved traditions of Carpatho-Rusyns' observance of the Feast of Feasts, the summit of the Christian liturgical year, the photo record of various Rusyn communities' observance of these customs is fairly scant once you go back as recently as World War II.

Regarding the photo we led with in this post, the image of Father (now Saint) Alexis Toth blessing the Paschal baskets and foods of Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants is almost certainly the oldest such extant photograph in the life of Carpatho-Rusyns in the United States. But when was the photo taken? Some sources attribute the photo to Minneapolis, Minn., when Father Alexis was pastor of St. Mary's Church there --1889 to 1893. But this photograph has appeared in other places, described as occurring at Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where Father Alexis was pastor from 1893 until his death in 1909. In any case, this is probably the first photographic record that exists of this tradition in the U.S.

Here is a small selection of the older photos I've gotten from various sources (mostly church anniversary books).

St. John the Baptist Church, Edwardsville, circa 1913.
This is also probably one of the oldest such photos of Carpatho-Rusyns' Paschal observances.

Pascha in Aliquippa, St. George Church, 1940
Paschal procession at St. George Church, Aliquippa, 1940
Blessing of Paschal foods, St. John the Baptist Church, Lyndora, 1947
Blessing of Paschal foods, St. Michael Church, Allentown, 1958
Paschal services, St. Mary Church, Kingston
Preparing paskas, Ascension of Our Lord Church, Clairton, year undetermined
Blessing of Paschal foods, St. Michael Church, Dunmore, circa 1961
Paschal baskets lined up in the Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Saint Clair, 1960s?
Blessing of Paschal foods, St. Michael Church, Rankin, Pa., 1970s-1980s

What might you have? It would be great to get a variety of older and more-recent holiday photographs to choose from when I am finally ready to lay out the book. (Photos from the Christmas celebration are equally welcome!) Please contact me at

Original material is © by the author, Richard D. Custer; all rights reserved.

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