Many Orthodox Christian churches, including the Greek Orthodox and the Russian Orthodox churches, celebrate the “miracle of Easter” on the Easter Sunday date in the Julian calendar. Pascha (or Paskha) is the highest celebration of the Orthodox Church. Russian Orthodox churches herald in the glorious event with a service, beginning at midnight on Pascha Sunday. After the service, proclaiming Christ’s Resurrection, Easter baskets are blessed and shared. This signifies the end of the Great Lent, a forty day period of fasting.
Holiday fare includes Paska, which is adorned with crosses made of raisins. The Paska is served with Easter sweet bread, or kulich, which is accompanied by vivid red colored hard boiled eggs. Red is symbolic of Easter and beauty.
Easter is a holiday for visiting friends and relatives. The traditional greeting is, “Christ is risen”, to which one would respond, “Christ is risen, indeed”.
Russian Orthodox Pascha is a time of literal and spiritual cleansing. Spring cleaning and household repairs are accomplished and everyone looks forward to the traditional Easter feast. Holy Week, the week between the Palm Sunday celebration and the Saturday just prior to Pascha, is a time of fasting, reflection and repentance. Good Friday, like elsewhere in the world, is the most somber day of this week.
Pascha vigil, Saturday night, features a liturgy which climaxes at midnight. At this time, the darkened church is brought to life by the lighting of countless candles, church bells toll and the faithful pour out of the church, singing and praising Christ.
Another tradition observed in many Orthodox Christian churches is the blessing of food baskets. The baskets are usually filled with bread, cheese, meat, eggs, butter, salt, and other types of food used for Paschal celebrations. Now, the feast begins! All kinds of meat, kulich, cakes, sweets – everything forbidden during the Great Fast is present on virtually every household table.
The Orthodox Christian date for Easter Sunday is not a federal public holiday in the United States. However, it is held on a Sunday, which is a non-school day and non-working day for many Americans.
By Linda Delaine
Photo by Vladimir Grigorenko and Serge Taran