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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reviving Easter Traditions




It's kulich season. That time of year when the city's bakers fill their ovens with an astounding quantity of Easter cakes. Indeed, by Easter more than seven hundred tons of kulichi will fill the shops of Moscow. These fluffy loaves are already adorning the shelves of everything from the smartest supermarket to the most banal bakery.


The kulich is, of course, the first sign that the Easter holiday is upon us. But that was not always the case.


"I still remember back in Soviet times when celebrating any religious holiday, including Easter, was not welcomed by the authorities. None of the stores sold kulichi, so my babushka always made her own," said 27-year-old Tatyana Dmitriyeva, picking out a store-bought kulich on Novy Arbat.


"Then I knew absolutely nothing about Easter traditions, so for me the kulich was just another tasty cake that babushka made," Dmitriyeva said.


This is not to say that Easter was completely ignored during Soviet times. Take the popular film "Blonde Around the Corner," made in the early 1980s. In the movie the late, great Andrei Mironov, who played the starring role, finds himself in the middle of an Easter service. Astonished by the number of people in attendance, he tells his girlfriend, who brought him there, that he never knew there were so many religious people in Moscow. His girlfriend replies that the so-called believers were not lured to the church by religious feelings, but by an interest in old traditions.


The kulich is only part of the Easter traditions that people like Dmitriyeva are happy to revive and make their own. After the long Lenten period, when meat, eggs and dairy products are forbidden, paskha - a rich Easter dish made of cottage cheese, raisins and other ingredients - is another integral part of the Easter table. These seasonal goodies can be bought around town or sampled at any number of Moscow restaurants that feature an Easter menu for the first week in May.


And when it comes to keeping with tradition, many people eschew store-bought paints for the more natural allure of the onionskin. Indeed, the intensity of the colors achieved by boiling eggs in water with onion skin is a far sight more dramatic than the paler hues of artificial dyes.


Once colored, the eggs are presented to friends and neighbors on Easter day. If you want to make it a really special gift, however, you should take your eggs to the church beforehand and have them blessed with holy water. The same goes for your kulich.


To see how Orthodox Easter is celebrated firsthand, you have to visit one of the many churches around Moscow. Services start at 11:30 pm on April 29 and last throughout the night, but you need not stay until the end. It is quite beautiful to catch the krestny khod, or cross walk, when everyone circles the church holding candles.


Everyone has his or her favorite church. The Christ the Savior Cathedral has become the meeting place for government officials, while the Church of the Resurrection on Ulitsa Nezhdanova is the preferred place of Moscow's more bohemian set. And those who opt not to leave the house can always follow the televised service of Patriarch Alexy II.