For many Christians across the world, today is Easter Sunday, but you won’t find much evidence of Easter here in Moscow because for Orthodox Russia this is still the season of Lent.
The reason the dates for Easter differ is a little complex and is all to do with how you calculate lunar cycles – last year Easter was only one week apart, this year it is a massive five weeks difference and next year Easter will fall on the same day. I’ve spent the last twenty minutes trying to write a straightforward explanation (and failed), but let’s just say that a good deal of it is because the Western church simplifies their calculations (you could argue they cheat!!) by having a fixed date for the vernal equinox and using their own “ecclesiastical” dates for full moons, while the Orthodox church uses actual full moon dates from Jeruslaem. If you are feeling nerdy and want a fuller explanation there is a good one on infoplease.com
Once Easter does come to Moscow, the celebrations are a little different to those I grew up with in England. For a start, health-conscious parents here can relax because Easter in Russia involves very little chocolate – you won’t find supermarket aisles filled with large chocolate eggs (my kids will each have to make do with a Kinder egg this year!), but you will find lots of beautifully decorated hens eggs instead.
Traditionally, eggs were dyed red to remind people of Christ’s blood, but now you can find kits to dye them in all kinds of colours, plus stickers to help you decorate them. But my favourite is the shrink-wrap: put your egg inside the plastic wrapper, hard-boil it in water and watch the multi-coloured plastic stick to the egg. We found a fabulous shrink-wrap kit last year (as seen in the picture above!) to make animal-shaped eggs which was a massive hit with Beanie-boy. But if you’d like to stick to the traditional there is a step-by-step guide for making beautifully dyed and decorated eggs on the blog vikalinka.com
One of the culinary centre-pieces for a Russian Easter celebration is Kulich, which is a little similar to an Italian Pannettone because it is a bread-like cake with dried fruit in it. Russian families traditionally make the Kulich and then take it to church to be blessed at the (all-night!) Easter service before sharing it with friends and family. I quite fancy having a go at making one this year and I’m tempted to try the one from the Ukranian and Russian food blog Natasha’s Kitchen.
For a city that spent most of the twentieth century with secular communism, Moscow certainly knows how to make a big deal out of Easter – we took this photo of Beanie-boy going giant egg-hunting in Tverskaya Ploschad last year, and we also found more celebrations on the Old Arbat and around the Boulevard ring. We’re looking forward to seeing what delights await us this year!
Wherever you are reading this, and however you are celebrating, I wish you a very Happy Easter!