ITMO: Five Orthodox Easter Activities

We’ve already covered key information about Orthodox Easter (called Paskha in Russian) in , but let’s refresh it by focusing on activities it involves. For example, did you know Russians not only paint eggs but also… play with them in sandboxes? This might sound weird, so before we get to that, let’s start with the basics. What’s typically on our to-do list for Easter?

Baking (or buying) Easter food
This should be the first thing on the list, as baked goods should be ready in advance (you’ll know why in a moment). There are two types of bread that are only baked for Easter. One of them is kulich – it’s a very sweet cottage-cheese-based bread typically covered with icing and decorated. You can find a recipe in English .

The second kind is paskha, homonymous with the Russian name for Easter. In my family, by paskha we always meant a type of white bread that is much less sweet than kulich, round, and not so heavily decorated. However, more commonly, this term is used for a .

Interesting fact: in Soviet times, when religion was either prohibited or at the very least frowned upon, you could still find kulichi in bakeries but they were called “Spring cakes” as if they had nothing to do with Easter.

Egg decoration
You can find a variety of stickers and paint for eggs in most supermarkets but to be honest, many of them are too bright or too tacky – it just doesn’t seem appropriate to use glitter or neon yellow coloring for Easter eggs. As an alternative, there is a DIY way to achieve beautiful natural colors and unique patterns: you need to attach herbal leaves to eggs, put them into nylon stockings (!), and boil them with onion skin. If done right, you’ll end up with something like that:

Blessing your food
That’s why you need to have Easter food ready in advance: so you would have time to take it to church and get it blessed by a priest. This happens in most churches on Saturday right before Easter, from morning till evening. You can come any time and wait with others for the priest to read the prayer and sprinkle the food with holy water.

Saying Hristos Voskrese
This tradition seems to gradually fade with the younger generation, as many find it awkward, especially if they aren’t religious themselves. However, you might still hear it: when two people meet, the first person says “Hristos Voskres!” (“Christ rose!”) and the second is supposed to respond with “Voistinu Voskres!” (“Verily (he) rose!”).

Egg rolling
Yes, playing with food sounds kind of extravagant now but that is a tradition. It’s not common in urban areas but is still played in the countryside all over Russia.

Usually, it takes place in the nearest sandbox: you need to even out some of the sand and build a small ramp from a piece of wood or any other suitable material (we always used a fiber cement board) so that eggs would roll down the ramp into the evened-out zone.

Players then start to roll their eggs in turns: they need to hit eggs that have already been rolled. If you hit one of them, you take it, and the next time you get to roll them both. Whoever has the most eggs by the end of the game wins. Might not sound like much but trust me, the sandbox is usually quite crowded, and not only with kids.

Overall, Paskha is one of the most important holidays for Orthodox Christians, as it signifies the resurrection of Christ. On a more practical note, that’s when fasting ends, so there are a lot of tasty treats on the table to be enjoyed by everyone.

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