Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Easter traditions of one Russian family

With Easter coming up, I thought it would be appropriate to share our Russian Easter holiday traditions. Allie in that sense is a very lucky girl. She  has a lot more holidays to celebrate than many other children. 2 Easters, 2 Christmases, not to mention many other Russian holidays like March 8 (International Women’s Day which is huge in Russia), February 23, which is really meant to celebrate Defenders of the Fatherland, but over the years turned into a Men’s Day, Old New Years on January 14th and many others.
When I’m saying “our Russian traditions”, that means I am relocating back in time and think of growing up. All the major preparations for Easter in our family took place on a Saturday before Easter. My mom boiled lots and lots of eggs and my sister and I were in charge of decorating them. We would mostly use colorful markers to draw on eggs and my sister’s “art” always looked great and my eggs looked like something Allie can make now at the age of 2. Fancy dye wasn't really available when we were growing up, so my mom used her signature dye which was boiling lots of onion peel until it turned the water bright orange/red/brown color. Then she just placed eggs into the colored liquid and kept them there until a desired color was reach, much like we do now with all the dye. So our eggs were always the same color, but luckily it was a great rich color, so we liked it (plus we didn't know until later that it was even possible to dye eggs any different color).
My mom also made a traditional kulich, which is an Easter sweet bread that’s baked in a tall round tin, drizzled with white icing and decorated with colorful sprinkles.  Kulich is then taken to the priest to be blessed. Some people also take eggs to be blessed. Perhaps I should make it my resolution this year to master a kulich. I only tried making it once and let’s just say it wasn't as good as my mom’s. On Easter's Eve my mom baked several kuliches because on Easter you share/exchange kuliches with your friends. At the end of the day you end up with several kinds baked by multiple families.  My mom also made Pascha for Easter morning. Pascha is a traditional Easter dish made out of farmer’s cheese which is molded into a shape of a pyramid (symbol of church). She decorated it with raisins and nuts.
The Russian Easter Mass starts on Saturday night and lasts through the night, many Russian families attend it.
Easter morning was very exciting. My sister and I would wake up to a nicely set table. My mom would use a festive table cloth and would neatly arrange the food on the table: dyed eggs in a nice basket, kuliches and pascha. We all greeted each other with the traditional Easter greeting which translates into “ Christ  is risen” and the other one answers “Truly, he is risen” and then you exchange a triple kiss on cheeks. You also share this greeting with all your friends and family that day.
After a family breakfast, us, the kids from the neighborhood, would get together to participate in the egg fight (that sounds very Easter-y, doesn't it?) Kids brought their eggs from home and then in pairs we hit each other’s egg trying to maneuver our moves to keep the egg from breaking. Whichever one didn't break continued competing with the remaining eggs. The winner of the game is the one with the strongest egg. I just reread this paragraph and while this game doesn't sound very sophisticated (to say the least), I remember we always had so much fun and it went on for hours (with all the arguing “you hit too strong”, ”no, you hit too strong”, “your egg is not real”, “at least mine’s not raw and didn't get anyone’s clothes dirty”, etc).
Because our parents always gave us gifts for all kinds of occasions and holidays my sister and I got Easter gifts. A part of the gift was always a chocolate covered egg that you eat and find a surprise toy inside. Those chocolate eggs were always the best part. We had collections of items coming from those eggs!
A special Easter dinner would always take place in the evening with either us going over to a family’s friends’ place or them coming over to ours. Those were the days!
This Sunday Allie will become familiar with American Easter traditions (and so will I) and will do her first Easter egg hunt. But in just a few weeks when our 2nd of the season Easter (the Russian orthodox Easter) comes, we’ll definitely do the egg fight!
What Easter traditions do you have (that I can steal?)

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