Easter in Russia
The Easter celebration is by far the most important in the Russian Orthodox Church. Many of the symbols of this festival are already familiar like the gorgeous folk-art Easter eggs, easily identified by their intricate patterns and colors of red, black and golden-yellow. Equally impressive are the images of the bejeweled and bedazzling enameled eggs created by court jeweler and artist Karl Fabergé.
The traditional Easter foods are a nut and fruit filled yeast cake called kulich and an accompanying sweet cheese spread called paskha. The recipes for these delicacies are involved and time-consuming. The classic kulich was begun several days before Easter. It contained candied fruit, almonds, and raisins. It was always baked in a special kind of pan - tall and cylindrical, sort of like a coffee can. When the cake was done, it was decorated with white frosting drizzled down the sides. On the side, spelled out in pieces of candied fruit, were the letters XB, representing the Cyrillic letters for "Christos voskres" -- "Christ is risen."
Often the kulich were carried to church and set out on long tables to be blessed by the priest. (In the old days, the priest would often make a "house call" to his wealthier parishioners to bless the food at home.)
Next to the cake was the paskha, presented carefully molded in a pyramid shape. The letters "XB" were also inscribed on this creation. Creating this delight took hours - it requires weighing down "pot cheese" with a heavy board to drain the moisture and then pressing it though a sieve before the other ingredients were added. A Russian princess told a 19th century reporter a version where she added no nuts or currants, but the zest of one lemon. Depending on the household, it is decorated with almonds and candied fruit, or served with a slice of almond bread (in the Baltic states) or with walnut and raisin bread.
Easter gathering at the cemetery
In Russia Easter eggs are cooked with onion peels to give them a brownish color. On Easter Sunday Russians set off to cemeteries, where they eat the eggs on the tombs of their loved ones, leaving some behind when they depart. They will be eaten by beggars, through whom the spirits of the dead will be appeased.
Photo: Sergey Maximishin, St-Petersburg
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