Easter is the one of the most important religious holidays in Russia. The date of Orthodox Easter varies every year and usually is different from the date of Easter in Western countries. This year Easter in Russia is celebrated on April, 12th. The above image is from an Easter procession from 1893 and this painting (from Russian artist Illarion Mikhailovich Pryanishnikov) is housed in the Russian Museum in St Petersburg. Visiting the Russian Museum is one of the great ways you can spend the Easter Holidays in St Petersburg.
The Easter service starts at midnight and is probably the most festive service throughout the year. Nowadays when religion is becoming more and more important in Russia a lot of people attend this service. The service which takes place in the main Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Russia, the Cathedral of Our Christ the Savior in Moscow, and is broadcast live on many of the main TV channels.
Traditional food and gifts for this holy day are eggs and kuliches (a kind of Easter bread typical for Orthodox countries). The preparation of food usually has to be finished on Thursday so that nothing distracts them during the services on Good Friday. After the Easter service on Sunday the eggs and kuliches are blessed by the priest.
The kulich is a replacement for more traditional and ancient Artos. Apostles after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ during all their meals would leave a spare place at the head of the table for him and a piece of bread – “Artos” would be left there for him to join his disciples.
Nowadays instead of artos people bake kuliches and sometimes they leave a kulich for Jesus Christ on a special table. Eggs symbolize the wonder of resurrection. According to the legend, Mary Magdalene presented the Emperor Tiberius an egg as a symbol of resurrection. The Emperor was not convinced and said that resurrection was impossible as it was impossible for an egg to become red. The egg immediately changed color and became red. Hence the tradition to paint eggs red; however it is not the only color used. Nowadays before Easter in most shops you can buy special sets for coloring eggs. People become very imaginative, sometimes even decorating the eggs with images of different characters from books and movies.
The most well-known Easter eggs were created in the period from the late 19th century to 1917 by the workshop of Carl Faberge. The first Easter egg was created in 1885 as an Easter souvenir for the wife of Alexander III Maria Fyodorovna which actually started the series. Nowadays we know of about 71 eggs created by the workshop for the Russian Emperors and Russian aristocracy. Recently the Faberge Museum was opened in St Petersburg where you can actually see some of the famous eggs and other incredible works by Carl Faberge and his workshop. Starting from April, 12th till May 10th in the Faberge Museum a Children’s Easter Festival of Arts is going to take place. During the Festival there will be a play involving popular Russian actors, a special excursion in where you will learn more about why the eggs were painted, what different patterns and colors mean and many other exciting details – and of course you will be able to admire the outstanding works on display.
On Easter day there is a special greeting that all people use. One person says “Khristos voskres!” which means “Jesus Christ has risen from the dead” and then the other should answer “Voistinu voskres!” meaning “Indeed he has”.
So, welcome to St. Petersburg! Join us in our Easter celebrations and Khristos voskres!