While the rest of the world decorated Easter eggs couple of weeks ago, Russians just cracked theirs a few days back. Unlike the rest of the world, when it comes to religious celebrations Russians use Julian calendar, often differing from Gregorian. Hence this year Easter day falls on April 8th - the last Sunday. In celebration, today we take a look at the Russian Easter and what traditions are common during this festive period.
The Name and Greetings
Russians call this celebration "Paskha," which translates from Jewish to "passing with Christ to the other life." What is more, if you bump into your old Russian acquaintance on this day you should say "Khristos voskres" (eng. "Christ is risen") to which your friend would reply "Voistinu voskres" (eng. "He is, indeed"). Then you would proceed to hug and kiss three times. Such greeting is a symbol of hope and love.
Firstly, Russians prepare their soul and body for this holiday by fasting 40 days prior Pashka. This period is called Great Lent and usually starts following Maslenitsa (Shrove Tuesday) celebrations. During these 40 days, Russians are not allowed to eat meat, dairy and sometimes even vegetable oils.
One week until Easter is called the Holy Week, during which all of the pre-celebratory chores must be done. After running all of the errands and preparing the house for a celebration, Russians gather on "Clean Tuesday" to dye and decorate eggs.
The Big Day
As the big celebration happens on Sunday, the food is prepared the day before. Interestingly, those who participate in the Great Lent are not allowed to taste Easter dishes while cooking. In the evening, it is common tradition to take traditional dishes to the church service where they will be blessed.
The church service starts on Saturday evening and lasts until dawn. The mass is attended even by those who do not attend religious services regularly. During the ceremony, the bells are rung in the middle of the night to announce the resurrection of Christ, and the priest says - Christ is risen! (Remember how to say it in Russian?)
Once the service finishes, everyone goes home to have some rest and enjoy traditional Russian festive food and of course the global symbol of Easter - eggs. The usual dishes found on Russian Easter table are Paskha (pyramid-shaped caked with cottage cheese and raisins) and Kulich (special yeast bread), which are must-try desserts if you're in Russia. Throughout the day, Russians visit relatives and friends exchanging special greetings and cracking Easter eggs together.
A thought-provoking way to crack eggs in Russia is just by using your nails. This uncommon way to open egg symbolizes the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross.
The Tradition of Easter Eggs
Similarly to the rest of the world, the egg tradition goes back to pre-Christian times when it was a symbol of fertility and representation of new life. Russians' favorite color to dye their eggs is, of course, red. The color is not only a symbol of the blood of Christ but also has a special meaning for Russia, as many prominent sites and cultural artifacts are related to the word "krasni," which means both the color and the word "beautiful."
In Russia, Easter eggs are surrounded by many superstitions and believed to have magic powers, such as protecting crops, keeping animals healthy and guarding against the evil spirits.
Even after the celebration is over, Russians like to keep decorated and blessed eggs as a lucky charm until the next Easter.
Many Russians still like to use the traditional ways to dye eggs, which included red onion skins, beetroots or spinach. However, a global tradition of intricate egg decorating and gifting to each other was inspired by Faberge eggs, which are almost as popular souvenir as the Matryoshka nesting dolls.
The first Faberge Easter egg was commissioned by the emperor Alexander III in 1885 and was a present to his wife. The egg is referred to as First Hen and contains the "surprise" - round, matte golden yolk, which opens to reveal another "surprise" golden hen with ruby eyes.
In an eggshell, the Easter celebration is a meaningful time for all Russians and is a beautiful religious event to witness for all travelers. The holiday differs from the Western world with its religious nuances originating from Orthodoxy and Russian superstitions, however, there are some similarities too. Russians, like the rest of the world, spend Easter surrounded by the loved ones, exchanging beautiful eggs and eating a lot of delicious dishes. Subscribe to our Youtube channel to learn more about the culture of Russia and the rest of Europe.