I should confess that I lead a double life. I celebrate most of the major holidays twice: in accordance with the local calendar and in accordance with the Russian calendar. Major religious holidays come one or two weeks later in Russia since the Eastern Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar while the West employs the Gregorian calendar. April 19th is the date for Orthodox Easter (Paskha) this year. There are some other differences. In the West, there are Easter sunrise services, while Russian Orthodox Church Easter services last all through Saturday night. The congregation gathers in the church or cathedral on Saturday evening and takes part in an Easter vigil commemorating the buried Christ. Easter egg decoration is an important part of Easter traditions in Russia. The predominant color for egg dying in Russia is red.
The red dye is chosen because it symbolizes the blood of Christ. My grandmother and mother, among others, used onion peels to make a dye reminding of terracota color.
Another part of Easter celebrations in Russia is the family Easter dinner following the worship services. The Easter dinner is a sumptuous feast, in which the entire congregation celebrates together. Russian people traditionally bake Easter cakes, known as "kulich," and make curd paskha. In Soviet times, people didn't celebrate Easter openly. But as I remember, almost every family that I knew had kulich and dyed eggs that day. We, children, used to play a game - whose egg is stronger. One kid holds an egg in his/her fist showing just a bottom part of it, another hits it with the sharp end of his/her egg. Then, the eggs are turned. Sometimes, upon agreement, the winner could collect "defeated"eggs. My grandma told about other games played in old times, like, for example, whose egg will roll down further from a little kid-made mound. I showed my boys how to play the egg game and they do that every Easter.
Below, there are eggs painted by them at school, here in Washington state, in their art class. Those are real eggs done using an old Russian/Ukranian technique. You can tell by their design that they were made by boys, not girls. One of the eggs even resembles a football!
There is no such thing in Russia as the Easter bunny and an egg hunt.
There is one more tradition in Russia I'd like to mention. On Easter day, people greet each other with the words: - Christ has risen! - Risen, indeed! After that, people kiss each other on the cheeks three times even if they are total strangers.
At the end, there are a couple of pictures with really big Easter bunnies. I checked with Snopes, and the images are real.
Herman weighs in at 22 pounds and measures a little over 3 feet. He is a breed of rabbit called German Giant (how appropriate!).This is his owner, Hans Wagner, struggling to hold him up. From the NY Post article: "We don't feed him an unusual diet," said Wagner. "He goes through more than his brothers and sisters, but he eats the same food mix. His favorite food is actually lettuce. He can never get enough of it. "LOOK AT THOSE FEET!
More pictures of giant bunnies are here http://www.hoax-slayer.com/giant-rabbit.shtml
Happy Easter everyone!