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Paskha Celebrations in Russia

Easter is considered to be the most significant holiday in the Russian Orthodox Church and Easter Sunday (Paskha) is the highlight of the Easter celebrations in Russia. Followers of the Christian religion throughout Russia will spend Paskha attending religious ceremonies and eating traditional foods with family and friends in remembrance of the miracle of Christ’s resurrection. The name Paskha is taken from the Greek word Pascha being a translation of the Hebrew word for Passover.

The Easter season begins six weeks before Easter Sunday, as the majority of Russian Orthodox Christians observe Lent. During this time meat and dairy products are excluded from their daily diet. Prior to Lent, Russians enjoy a week of festivities and food known as Maslenitsa, or Butter Week. Buttered pancakes are the main item on the menu. Activities including snowball fights and sledding mark the end of winter and welcome spring. Maslenitsa ends with the beginning of Lent and Lent ends with Easter.

On the night before Paskha, Russian Orthodox Christians attend church services and at midnight they light candles and follow the priest around the church as they pray and sing. Easter Sunday is a family day of celebration and feasting. Both adults and children engage in the tradition of decorating Easter eggs (pysanka) with elaborate designs, which they present as gifts to friends and family. Some prefer to make their pysanka out of carved wooden eggs.

An integral part of the Easter Sunday celebrations is a traditional rich cheesecake called Paskha. The Paskha is traditionally pyramid-shaped which is symbolic of Christ’s tomb. The traditional mould is made of wood, but nowadays plastic moulds are used. The mould is made in such a way as to leave markings on the sides of the Paskha. The markings include traditional religious symbols such as the cross, lance and Russian letters representing the greeting “Christ is Risen!” The main ingredient of Paskha is curd, which is mixed with butter, eggs, sour cream, almonds, raisins and spices. The Paskha is enjoyed as part of a meal which includes Kulich - traditional Russian Easter bread – and other Easter treats.

There is no doubt that Paskha holds special meaning for Christians in Russia which they consider to be a joyful time, as well as a time for reflection on the blessings they enjoy.


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