Now for a limited time: FREE GIFT to New Subscribers!       
May/June 2015 Current Moscow Time: 23:36:13
27 May 2015


  The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.

Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Russian Pascha

by Linda DeLaine
Russian Pascha

Pascha (or Paskha) is the highest celebration of the Orthodox Church. Russian Orthodox churches herald in the glorious event with a service, beginning at midnight on Pascha Sunday. After the service, proclaiming Christ's Resurrection, Easter baskets are blessed and shared. This signifies the end of the Great Lent, a forty day period of fasting.

Holiday fare includes paska, which is adorned with crosses made of raisins. The Paska is served with Easter sweet bread, or kulich, which is accompanied by vivid red colored hard boiled eggs. Red is symbolic of Easter and beauty.

The main course of the traditional Pascha dinner is lamb or ham. Easter is a holiday for visiting friends and relatives. The traditional greeting is, Christ is risen, to which one would respond, Christ is truly risen.

Maslenitsa
The old Russian tradition of Maslenitsa precedes the Great Fast (Lent, in the West). It is eight days of eating, drinking, making merry and a carnival like atmosphere similar to Mardi Gras. Know also as Butter Week, this period is characterized by mass consumption of blini.

The Great Fast
After Maslenitsa, the Great Fast commences. This is a mandatory fast of 40 days during which no animal products may be eaten. This includes red meat, fish, poultry, milk,cheese, eggs, butter, etc. In other words, this is a strict diet of fruit, vegetables, beans and grains. Entertainment is also forbidden with the exception of cultural and religious concerts and singing. As Palm Sunday approaches, a sense of anticipation and joy breaks through the long days of fasting. This typically corresponds with the first signs of spring and flowers, toys, confections, etc. are sold in the markets.

Easter eggs are a major part of the Russian Easter celebration. As in pagan times, the egg symbolizes life and, to Christians, Salvation and Christ's Resurrection. Red dyed eggs are given to everyone as a gesture of love and wish for a good life. The hard boiled eggs are eaten and used in the traditional Easter bread (another great recipe).

During the Imperial days, the royal family would give colored and richly decorated eggs to the boyars and the nobility. In addition to chicken eggs, the practice of adorning wooden eggs began and became a part of Russian decorative and applied arts in its own right.

Pascha
Russian Orthodox Pascha Sunday falls a week after Jewish Passover. This is a time of literal and spiritual cleansing. Spring cleaning and household repairs are accomplished and everyone looks forward to the traditional Easter feast. Holy Week, the week between the Palm Sunday celebration and the Saturday just prior to Pascha, is a time of fasting, reflection and repentance. Good Friday, like elsewhere in the world, is the most somber day of this week.

Pascha vigil, Saturday night, features a liturgy which climaxes at midnight. At this time, the darkened church is brought to life by the lighting of countless candles, church bells toll and the faithful pour out of the church, singing and praising Christ. Now, the feast begins! All kinds of meat; primarily ham and lamb; kulich, cakes, sweets - everything forbidden during the Great Fast is present on virtually every household table.

May 8, 2015
70 Years After Victory, the Battle for Stalingrad Rages On
70 Years After Victory, the Battle for Stalingrad Rages On
By Alice E.M. Underwood

The Battle for Stalingrad turned the tide of WWII in the Allies’ favor. Marked by the loss of nearly 2 million lives, it is one of the most devastating battles of human history. Yet it also continues to be embroiled in controversy, given the complex relationship Russians have toward Josef Stalin. 

Read More
Tags: stalin, wwii, war, stalingrad
May 7, 2015
The Controversial Composer
The Controversial Composer
By Richard Taruskin

The personal and professional have become increasingly intertwined in considerations of the life and work of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Music historian Richard Taruskin shows that this is nothing new – it all began shortly after the master composer's death.

Read More
Tags: music, history, tchaikovsky
May 7, 2015
The Most Useful Russian Inventions
The Most Useful Russian Inventions
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

What do radio, television, the periodic table, and helicopters have in common? Russians were involved in developing all of them – and more!

Read More
Tags: inventions, science
April 17, 2015
How Well Do You Know Russian Fairy Tale Characters?
How Well Do You Know Russian Fairy Tale Characters?
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

Sure, everyone knows the name Baba Yaga. But do you know where she lives? Do you know Koschey the Immortal, or Zmey Gorynych? How well do you know the spirits of the forest? Read up on these key characters of Russian fairy tales!

Read More
Tags: fairy tales
March 28, 2015
Smoktunovsky: Portrait of an Actor
Smoktunovsky: Portrait of an Actor
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

A generation of Soviets grew up seeing the face of actor Innokenty Smoktunovsky in his varied roles, both on screen and on stage. But what was his actual life like? In this snippet, he gives a taste of the trials he underwent as a soldier fighting the Nazis.

Read More
Tags: world war ii, smoktunovsky, memoir
March 8, 2015
International Women's Day: A Look Back
International Women's Day: A Look Back
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

Tired of having to do Valentine's Day and Mother's Day separately? Try it the Russian way and combine them into International Women's Day! A closer look at this convenient holiday's socialist origins and not-so-socialist present form.

Read More
Tags: russia, holiday, women, socialism