January 23, 2001

Russian Pascha


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.

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
Survival Russian

Survival Russian

Survival Russian is an intensely practical guide to conversational, colloquial and culture-rich Russian. It uses humor, current events and thematically-driven essays to deepen readers’ understanding of Russian language and culture. This enlarged Second Edition of Survival Russian includes over 90 essays and illuminates over 2000 invaluable Russian phrases and words.
The Samovar Murders

The Samovar Murders

The murder of a poet is always more than a murder. When a famous writer is brutally stabbed on the campus of Moscow’s Lumumba University, the son of a recently deposed African president confesses, and the case assumes political implications that no one wants any part of.
Moscow and Muscovites

Moscow and Muscovites

Vladimir Gilyarovsky's classic portrait of the Russian capital is one of Russians’ most beloved books. Yet it has never before been translated into English. Until now! It is a spectactular verbal pastiche: conversation, from gutter gibberish to the drawing room; oratory, from illiterates to aristocrats; prose, from boilerplate to Tolstoy; poetry, from earthy humor to Pushkin. 
93 Untranslatable Russian Words

93 Untranslatable Russian Words

Every language has concepts, ideas, words and idioms that are nearly impossible to translate into another language. This book looks at nearly 100 such Russian words and offers paths to their understanding and translation by way of examples from literature and everyday life. Difficult to translate words and concepts are introduced with dictionary definitions, then elucidated with citations from literature, speech and prose, helping the student of Russian comprehend the word/concept in context.
The Little Golden Calf

The Little Golden Calf

Our edition of The Little Golden Calf, one of the greatest Russian satires ever, is the first new translation of this classic novel in nearly fifty years. It is also the first unabridged, uncensored English translation ever, and is 100% true to the original 1931 serial publication in the Russian journal 30 Dnei. Anne O. Fisher’s translation is copiously annotated, and includes an introduction by Alexandra Ilf, the daughter of one of the book’s two co-authors.
Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
Steppe / Степь

Steppe / Степь

This is the work that made Chekhov, launching his career as a writer and playwright of national and international renown. Retranslated and updated, this new bilingual edition is a super way to improve your Russian.
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
At the Circus

At the Circus

This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.
Fish: A History of One Migration

Fish: A History of One Migration

This mesmerizing novel from one of Russia’s most important modern authors traces the life journey of a selfless Russian everywoman. In the wake of the Soviet breakup, inexorable forces drag Vera across the breadth of the Russian empire. Facing a relentless onslaught of human and social trials, she swims against the current of life, countering adversity and pain with compassion and hope, in many ways personifying Mother Russia’s torment and resilience amid the Soviet disintegration.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955