Cover picture © credits to iStock/IAM-Photography
Cover picture © credits to iStock/IAM-Photography

Orthodox Easter: your comprehensive guide in Russia

3 minutes to read

With April at the threshold, Russia gets ready to celebrate Easter, the most consecrated festivity for the Orthodox Christians. Preceded by Maslenitsa and the 40-day Great Lent fast, this sacred occasion marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Kept by many through times of the Soviet anti-religious propaganda, today the uplifting Easter celebrations claim attention from both believers and non-believers alike. Get your comprehensive guide to Orthodox Easter in Russia

Photo © credits to iStock/Martina_L
Photo © credits to iStock/Martina_L

Introducing the fest 

Even for not deeply religious people, the wondrous occasion of Easter manifests the solemn night service, sacred procession, bell-ringing, kulich and dyed eggs. 

In Russian culture, Easter is also known as Pascha. It comes from the Hebrew ‘pasque’ that means "Passover" and goes back to the time of the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt. To strengthen the belief into this victory over the death, on Sunday people greet each other with “Christos voskres”, meaning "Christ has Risen". In response, one says “Voistinu voskres” ("Indeed, He has Risen")- expressing a fundamental belief into the rising and eternal life.

Photo © credits to iStock/Syntheticmessiah
Photo © credits to iStock/Syntheticmessiah

Just as in the Catholic world, the Orthodox Easter is celebrated in spring. But as the date is not fixed (each year, the spring's full moon happens at different times), it can be any time between April and May. One more thing to keep in mind: the Orthodox Easter Sunday is calculated based on the Julian calendar as opposed to the Gregorian one, primarily used in the Catholic tradition. This difference can make up to one month difference.

Traditions to keep an eye on 

During the last Sunday before Easter, the believers usually recall Jesus entry to Jerusalem. Although he was greeted with the palm branches, in the Russian culture, those were replaced with the willow ones. Since the times of ancient Russia, the willow designated the spring, new life, and upcoming renewal. In the Orthodox tradition, willow branches are also often called “willows of virtue”.

Photo © credits to iStock/AnSyvanych
Photo © credits to iStock/AnSyvanych

Among other essential preparations prior to the Easter is the Great Lent. Not only it’s important to hold back from certain foods but also reconcile with offenders and worship. But even if the person did not fast, it does not mean entering the church is forbidden, everyone is welcomed during this holy time. The Easter usually begins with the night church service on Saturday Eve, that is followed by the liturgical singing and rounds of blissful singing and hugging. 

Symbols of Easter 

The main symbols of the Orthodox Easter in Russia are kulich – a Russian semi-sweet Easter bread, cheese pascha – a sweet dish made of cottage cheese and raisins – and eggs. Kulich is usually baked from the kvass dough (kvass is a traditional fermented Slavic beverage), whilst its process is also seen metaphorically as the Resurrection of Christ. Once the dough sours, it later comes to life again, just as the Christ did once. Often kulich bears the symbol ХВ, that stands for "Christos voskres".

Photo © credits to kp.ru/Polina Rusak
Photo © credits to kp.ru/Polina Rusak

Another symbol of Easter is an egg that symbolizes a new life. As opposed to chocolate eggs or bunnies in the West, Russians use real eggs. Although different colour variations are possible, there is one that is red and with a special meaning. It signifies the blood of Christ.  

Photo © credits to iStock/Alisa24
Photo © credits to iStock/Alisa24

Get a feeling of Russian Easter 

Want to get a feeling of the Orthodox Easter in Siberia? Then head to the museum-estate of V.P. Sukachev. One week prior to the holy occasion, the museum hosts numerous workshops to make Easter gifts with your own hands. Visitors can work with various materials such as sisal fiber, lace, flax, cardboard, gypsum, foamiran and others. All the works can be taken with afterwards.

Photo © credits to kp.ru/Yulia Pyhalova
Photo © credits to kp.ru/Yulia Pyhalova
Museum-estate of V.P. Sukachev, Irkutsk
Museum-estate of V.P. Sukachev, Irkutsk
ул. Декабрьских Событий, 12, Иркутск, Иркутская обл., Россия, 664011

If you happen to be in Russia around the Orthodox Easter time and want to join the overall celebrations, don't forget this comprehensive guide.


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The author

Elena Bubeeva

Elena Bubeeva

Hi, I am Elena. 28 years old, from Siberia. Communications enthusiast and nature lover, I spend much time talking about sustainable tourism, trails, and places for a good pizza. Join me for some tips and tricks around the coldest region in the world aka Siberia.

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