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Russian Orthodox Easter traditions and customs

Russian Easter Traditions: Food, Symbols and Celebration

This holiday for Russian Orthodox is considered to be the most important holiday in church calendar: even those people who do not attend church services usually go to church on the service that day. Date of church-ale celebration is moveable and every year it is determined all over again. Main reason for it is a need to select the correct day after the Paschal Full Moon. Catholics use a table of Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates since 1583 A.D. and celebrate holy day on the first Sunday after Paschal Full Moon. Orthodox Christians calculate exact date of this church fete in a more complicated way: firstly, they use Gregorian calendar, secondly, take into consideration Jewish holiday of Passover. As a result, a 19-year cycle was developed according to which dates for future holidays is determined. This is not the only distinction between Slavic traditions and a way Westerners tend to celebrate this holiday.
A celebration is not limited by Pasch tradition only: preparations for celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ begin with the Great Lent. It starts on Clean Monday (its date also changes from year to year as it depends on the date of the Passover. Name of the holiday was chosen for a reason: it is time for purification of thoughts, soul and body. The Great Lent ends on Lazarus Saturday.

Why do people decorate Easter eggs?

It is closely connected to pre-Christian times as in heathen beliefs eggs were considered symbols of fertility and were used in rites aimed to protect people. It symbolized beginning of the new life so no wonder that spring pagan holidays that praised renewal of nature included rituals with them. When pagans were Christianized, many traditions were adopted by church and used in Christian rites. Painting Easter eggs is one of such practices and the most common colors are red and yellow, as these colors can be achieved with the usage of natural dyes like onion skins or beets. By custom, people here exchange dyed eggs, usually red ones. They are exchanged with traditional greeting for happy Easter day in Russian. The color was selected with an ulterior motive: it is said that Maria Magdalene gifted emperor Tiberius with it as red egg symbolizes the color of Christ’s blood that was spilled on the cross as expiation of sins of humans.
There is a typically Russian phenomenon connected with Passover eggs: Faberge eggs. Tradition to present eggs on holy day in the imperial family of tsars has transformed into gifting egg-shaped jewelry masterpieces created in the workshop of the famous jeweler Carl Faberge. Each and every masterwork was fit for a king – they were not just made of precious materials but also had an element of surprise like hidden portraits, removable pieces or miniatures. Today such eggs are considered to be one of the most highly valued artefacts of imperial heritage. Of course, common Russian Orthodox Easter eggs are not so pricey.

Traditions of Russian Easter food

Russian Orthodox Easter traditions and customs
Russian Orthodox Easter traditions and customs

Holy day meal is very important to this nation. It is quite the thing to go to Easter liturgy with certain food traditions: Russian Orthodox Easter eggs, paskha, kulich and some others. In the church a priest blesses food so by convention people who have observed Lent break their fast with blessed food. Mistresses usually give a lot of attention to baking cake kulich tradition – for example, it is forbidden to swear or think dark thoughts when making it, otherwise it won’t rise in the oven. Plus Russian Easter bread traditionally cannot be cut by a knife as it symbolizes Body of Christ.

How to wish happy Easter in Russian?

According to old tradition, Orthodox greet each other with three kisses and words ‘Christ is risen!’. Answer for it is ‘Indeed, He is risen!’. The salutation for Happy Easter in Russian language sounds like Hristos voskres! Voistynu voskres!
This day you won’t hear hello or how do you do on streets, just Russian greeting for Easter so mind that answer with salutation is desirable if you do not want to insult talker. So do not forget about to say happy Easter, Christ is risen! and people will gladly greet you back. This church fete is a bright holiday and people here love it, without a doubt, you will like the way they celebrate it.


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