Easter in the Russian Orthodox Church

Easter is the most important holiday of the Russian Orthodox calendar. Orthodox Christians celebrate their Easter after attending an Easter procession at midnight and an overnight service in the church. Preparation for Easter begins seven weeks before the holiday, at the start of the Great Fast that bans meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and dairy from the Orthodox diet. The last week before Easter is Passion Week, full of beautiful church singing, as well as cooking and cleaning. The traditional dishes are the Easter cake ‘kulich’ and Easter cheesecake ‘paskha.’ And of course brightly painted Easter eggs! These ritual foods are blessed by a priest (who sprinkles them with ‘holy water’) in a church on the Saturday before Easter. For 40 days after Easter Sunday, Orthodox Christians exchange greetings, “Christ is risen!” —  ”He is risen indeed!” followed by three kisses.

Easter does not have a fixed date. The calculation of the date follows ancient traditions. The First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in AD 325 decreed that Easter must be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. The Eastern and Western Christian churches calculate the date according to different calendars. Westerners use the Gregorian calendar while Orthodox Christendom uses the more ancient Julian calendar. The matter is further complicated by the differing approaches to the calculations of the equinox and full moon.