Russian Easter Festivities – what to expect!

Russian Easter Festivities – what to expect!

Russia is getting an awful lot of bad press, but to be fair, Putin isn’t Russia, the army isn’t Russia, Wagner isn’t Russia. I mean, are you Rishi? And as I happened to be thrown into my French exchange’s Easter jollities in Paris, it seemed a golden opportunity to show off the beauty of one of the country’s traditions.

French and Orthodox is an unusual combo; they are the descendants  of White Russians who escaped the carnage of the Revolution. They keep the language and traditions alive in their uproarious celebrations, especially at Easter and Christmas.

The Orthodox rituals differ considerably in the hymns, service and the lack of seating. The Easter faithful do three turns around the church while inside is blacked out, a symbolic search for Jesus. As they flow in,  lights flood the procession and they proclaim:

Khristos voskres (Christ is risen!)

After church it’s back home with all the family for the feast, which entails weeks of preparation.

Toasting and drinking is a big deal.

   

Glasses for water, wine and vodka; vodka-pouring technique

Vodka shots kick off the proceedings and the glass must be brimful. When you can’t pour it right, you’ve had too much. And the etiquette is to look your toasting companion straight in the eye. Or you can lock arms. Nazdarovie!

 

Marie-Isabelle and Karel demonstrate vodka drinking etiquette

My French exchange’s husband Karel’s 3 favorites are: 1) starka, oak-matured and brownish; 2) Pertsovka with a green and red pepper swimming about inside; and 3) Zubrowka, a Polish vodka, softer, with a long blade of Steppe grass in the bottle.

 

Oil painting of a Koulitch and festive eggs, Karel de Gendre; Vodka and gherkins

You’re supposed to slug it down and munch immediately on a marasol gherkin. I was upraided for doing siplets and despite my exceeding caution, soon felt the fire spreading.

 

A table!

Food includes fish, beef rôtis, beetroot salad, colorful boiled eggs and piroshki. Dessert consists of a Manhattan of koulitches, decorative sponge towers baked in tubular tin cans of differing sizes, spiced with vodka and glacé fruit;  and pashka, their cheesecake. The XB is the first two letters of ‘Christ is Risen’ in cyrillic.

   

Beef rotis and a piroshki; Oil painting of a pashka in an izba (traditional log cabin), Karel de Gendre

To get colorful eggshells, eggs must be boiled with beetroot or onion skin. Before eating them, you have a party game. You each hold an egg and one chonks their egg onto the other person’s, like in ‘one potato two potato’. The egg that cracks is the loser, and it means you can eat it. There’s a particular way of nestling the egg in your fist that makes you invincible to all challengers. I was shown the secret after I had struck out and I shall take it to the grave. So much for the food.

Cracking Egg game; Oil painting of a church, Karel de Gendre

Russian Easter Art

We know all about majestic Fabergé eggs made for the Empresses of Russia. In imitation, Russians exchange beautiful miniature eggs of colorful cloisonné, which they hang on chains till grannies have multiple swags, each egg with a story. ‘This one we made during Covid, when we couldn’t get hold of any’.

Making your own Russian gift-egg

Equipment

  1. Choose largish decorative egg-shaped beads with vertical thread-hole
  2. Or get plain wooden beads and paint your own
  3. Little fittings for top and bottom to secure the wire
  4. Jewelry wire with one stop-end
  5. Pliers

Method

  1. Feed the wire through the lower fitting, bead and upper fitting
  2. Make a loop with long-nose pliers
  3. Twist the wire twice around the neck of the loop
  4. Cut excess wire
  5. Hang on a chain or safety pin

Ta-daaa!

 

All paintings courtesy of Karel de Gendre, Artist & Photographer, based in Paris:

And for his article on Easter eggs:

Oeufs de Pâques

 

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