Celebrating Orthodox Easter in Russia

Celebrating Orthodox Easter in Russia
10 April 2015

During this week many Russians have been preparing for Orthodox Easter celebrations. Even more important than Christmas, Easter is one of the major religious events for Russians, a time that brings a renovated spirit of joy and hope. On this day most of the people go to attend the Easter Mass celebration and then everybody has a family feast and enjoys the special Easter food like Кулич Easter bread, Пасха (Paskha), a traditional cheese cake, and ester eggs.

The Orthodox Easter is celebrated usually later than in the West because the orthodox church follows the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian one as Catholics and Protestants. So it’s really rare than the two Easter celebrations happen on the same day as last year. The use of Julian calendar is also the reason why some past historic events, for instance the October revolution, are usually connected to two different dates.

For the Easter celebration on Saturday night, people put on their best clothes and go to church. At midnight the bells ring to announce the resurrection of Jesus Christ, then everyone lights candles and follows the procession, while singing voices begin to fill churches and cathedrals. The ceremony is impressive: the whole mass goes on for hours and the service ends only in the early morning. At this point everyone greets each other with the traditional Христос воскрес! (Kristos voskres) to which reply Воистину воскрес!(Voistinu voskres).

During the holy week the tradition includes doing the spring cleaning, baking Easter bread , painting eggs, and on Saturday they prepare the Easter cake. After Lent, the Easter day starts with a long family breakfast; people can finally enjoy everything they weren’t allowed to eat during the fasting period. Then the tradition suggests that after breakfast people visit their friends and neighbours exchanging eggs and small Easter bread. It’s common to visit cemeteries and bring eggs or bread to the graves.

Eggs in particular are believed to have special powers as many things which has a round shape, for example Блины (bliny) during Maslenitsa. Eggs should protect crops and cattle from natural disasters and diseases, people and places from evil spirits. It is believed that by rolling an Easter egg over the face you can make yourself look younger. The traditional eggs are painted red or cooked together with beet roots, onion skins, spinach or alternatively colour fabric remnants.

During Easter weekend in Saint Petersburg night buses will work from Friday to Sunday. And from this time on they will work every weekend. To learn more and maybe have a look to the religious celebrations during Easter you can check Исаакиевский собор  (Isaakievsky sobor)and Казанский собор (Kazansky sobor)’s schedules.

From 12th to 19th April Пасхальный фестиваль (Paschalniy festival) will be organized in Saint Petersburg. The festival program includes expositions, concerts, fairs, master classes and several entertainments. The official opening will be on April, 12 in Митрополичий сад (Mitropolichiy sad) in АлександроНевская лавра (Aleksandro-Nevskaya lavra). This monastery and Малая Садовая улица (Malaya Sadovaya ylitsa) will be the main venues of the festival that will take place daily from 10,00 to 21,00. To learn more about the festival program click here

In Васильевский остров (Vasievsky ostrov) on April 12 from 13,00 to 18,00 they have plan a full program with concerts, Russian games, exhibitions and the traditional Easter cake. However there will be celebrations everywhere so if you are in Russia enjoy the Orthodox Easter! С Пасхой! (S Paschoi!)

This post was brought to you by Jessica, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

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