Although both Russian Orthodox and Western Easter celebrate the resurrection of Christ, there are few similarities between the two festivals. Because Russians use the Julian calendar for religious holidays, the two rarely begin on the same date: this year, for example, Orthodox Easter falls in April. And the West's Easter bunny or chocolate egg is virtually unknown in Russia. Crafted Easter eggs are instead the rage, usually painted a simple red to symbolise the blood of Christ, though others are much more elaborate.
Some Easter traditions, like so many in Russia, combine Christian and pagan beliefs. One that goes back to the early Christians is the wearing of new clothes (denoting new life) on the first day of Easter. Another is to rise at dawn to predict the weather for the following summer. Other Easter days are also assigned a unique significance. Don't work on Wednesday otherwise your crops will be ruined by hail. Thursday is for honoring the dead, while Friday is the time to ask for and receive forgiveness from your nearest and dearest.
Two special holiday Easter foods are paskha, a cottage cheese dessert, and kulich, a raisin and nut cake that marks the suffering of Christ on the cross. A recipe for kulich is given below.
3 cups of plain flour 3 egg yolks 1 cup of lukewarm milk dash of rum or cognac 1/2 cup melted, unsalted butter o 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup raisins 1/2 cup candied fruit 1/2 cup almonds o pinch of salt dash of vanilla one packet of dry yeast
1. Soak raisins in rum or cognac.
2. Combine yeast in a cup of milk or water, add sugar and allow to stand.
3. Add 1/3 cup of flour, and leave in a warm place until foam forms on the surface.
4. In a bowl, mix egg yolks with sugar, salt and vanilla, then add butter, yeast and mix well.
5. Gradually add the rest of the flour until you have a light, non-sticky dough.
6. Leave dough in a buttered bowl, covered with plastic wrap. Let rise until it has doubled in bulk.
7. While the dough is rising, grease a tall baking tin and line the sides and bottom with greased paper, ensuring the paper is at least twice the height of the tin.
9. Knead dough, add fruits and almonds and place into tin.
10. Let dough rise until it has reached top of the tin.
11. Place in an oven pre-heated to 390 degrees Fahrenheit. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for another 35 minutes.
12. Let cool, then remove from the tin and leave it to cool some more in an upright position.
Powder with granulated sugar and serve. Alternatively, make icing from 2 cups of sugar, 4 tablespoons of cold water and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Combine all icing ingredients and pour over the top.
Kulich is an essential part of the Easter table
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