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Easter in Russia

Posted by The Cookie Queen     Category: Blog News

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I often wondered how Easter is celebrated in the rest of the world and so, having Russian Cookie House, I’ve decided to take a look at how our Russian brothers and sisters in Christ celebrate Easter.

While our country is 90% Christian, with about 80% belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, Russia’s state religion prior to the  communist revolution, remains the largest religious body in the country where believers are estimated to be at least 50% of the population.

In my research I came up with some very interesting facts which I would like to share with you:

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Fact 1: In Russia, Easter  is usually celebrated later than in the West because Easter dates are determined by different calendars. The Russian-Orthodox church, one of a number of  Christian Orthodox churches, uses the Julian calendar, whereas the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches switched to the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century. This year, Easter Sunday in Russia will be on May 5! However, next year the Catholic and the Russian-Orthodox church will be celebrating Easter on the same day, April 20!

Photo: Alexei Boitsov

Fact 2: In Russia,  Easter (russ.: Пасха [Paskha])  is the most important religious celebration of the year, more so than Christmas, and is celebrated by  over 90% of all Russian citizens, including large numbers of those who are non-religious (see Fact #3) In the Philippines, the virtue of “giving and sharing” is practiced during the Christmas season,  whereas in Russian tradition, Easter is  the occasion to deliver gifts to poor families, relatives and strangers, orphanages, hospitals and prisons. “From Easter to the Ascension, Christ with the Apostles travel on earth testing everyone for mercy and kindness, ” people say.

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Fact 3: Easter celebrations in Russia were even tolerated during officially “atheist” Soviet times. For 48 days before Easter even many non-religious Russians observe the Great Lenten fast in which no meat, meat products, milk, eggs, alcohol or oil is consumed during meals to practice self discipline, a key Eastern  Christian principle  which is almost completely ignored  in the West. In countries such as Russia, Bulgaria, Belarus, and Ukraine,  among others,  even governments  may adopt the Easter diet. In Moscow, for example, the Kremlin’s kitchens are among the nation’s largest producers of Easter bread/cakes. 

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Fact 4: Easter mass in the Russian Orthodox Church is celebrated at midnight. It begins on Saturday night and as midnight approaches, worshipers light candles and  at the strike of 12 o’clock, church bells announce the resurrection of Christ. An intensely joyful Orthodox liturgical chant can be heard throughout the streets until the conclusion of Easter Mass at 2 or 3AM. The priests tell everybody to forgive each other and seal it with a hug and a traditional kiss, the Russian way, kissing each other’s cheek 3 times!

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Fact 5: Throughout Easter Sunday  people congratulate each other everywhere  by saying “Khristos Voskrese” (“Christ is risen!”) , and the reply is “Voistinu” or “Voistinu voskrese”( “Indeed! He is risen!”) In the Philippines, even among believers, this greeting would probably be heard only inside the church during a mass. 

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Fact 6: Russia’s Easter traditions include painting and coloring  of eggs – normally red,  as a symbol of the blood of Christ . The tradition of giving each other paschal eggs dates back to the first century A.D.   Orthodox Church legend has it that Mary Magdalene met Roman Emperor Tiberius  while preaching  the faith and  presented him  with a chicken egg. Tiberius did not believe her story of Christ’s resurrection and said: “How can anyone be risen from the dead? This is as impossible as for this egg to become red now.”  In timely fashion, the egg turned red, showing the emperor the truth of the Christian faith.

I hope that you found these facts interesting. There are two more things you might want to check out to win a prize (see below). Each question will have 5 winners. Winners can only win once. The first 5 persons who are able to find the correct answer to each question will receive the following prizes:

PRIZE 1: 1 Box of Assorted Bonbons

Question: For Russian Orthodox Christians, what is the Sunday before Easter Sunday called?

PRIZE 2: 1 Box of Classic Gourmet Selection or European Selection

Question: On the eve of Easter Sunday, something HOLY is distributed to the churches for the Russian Orthodox Easter mass.  What is it? Who delivers it? Where does it come from? Where is it delivered? How is it delivered?

Please email your answers to info@russiancookiehouse.com. Answers posted elsewhere will not be considered. The 10 winners will be notified via email and announced on Facebook on or before Wednesday April 3.

Sources for the article: (Rianovosti, The Mendeleyev Journal, www.advantour.com, www.russlandjournal.de)