Happy Easter! Orthodox Christians celebrate biggest holiday

Orthodox Christians are celebrateing the holiest day in their religious calendar, Orthodox Easter. The holiday follows seven weeks of Lent, a period of prayer and fasting strictly observed by believers in Russia, the seat of the largest of the Eastern Ort

Believers in Moscow flocked to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to take part in the Midnight Easter service, which was led by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Aleksy II.

In Russia the holy day is observed both by believers and non-believers, many of which are now busy painting eggs and baking kuliches – traditional Easter bread. Russia’s top kitchen is also preparing traditional food for the event.
 
The Kremlin kitchen is a recipe for historic reconciliation. Outside, red stars are competing for attention with Orthodox crosses. Inside, cooks that used to feed Soviet bosses are now baking Easter bread for the new Russian bureaucrats.

Easter is the most important day in the Orthodox calendar, but what makes it really special is that in Russia it is celebrated by people of various religions and even by those who don’t believe in God at all. According to polls, only three per cent of Russians observe the Great Lent, but more than 80 per cent celebrate the end of fasting and the coming of Easter. 

Kulich, or sweat Easter bread, has hundreds of recipes but the Kremlin bakers believe nobody does it better than they. It takes two days to turn flour, eggs and dried fruits into a piece of culinary art.

Kremlin’s chief baker, Nadezhda Gorshkova, is convinced that even in Soviet times they used to bake Easter bread in the Kremlin.

“Why shouldn’t they? There are so many beautiful churches and cathedrals here. Of course they baked kuliches only at the special request and they tried not to publicise it but I’m sure they baked them just as we do today,” she says.

Those who work in the Kremlin no longer have to hide their faith. In fact, orders for Easter bread increase every year.

This week the red-star bakers have to produce 14,000 kuliches – that in addition to more than 50,000 eggs to be coloured. This is another Orthodox tradition that is overseen by the Kremlin head chef.

While millions of Russians are preparing to attend church for Sunday mid-night prayer, Easter is no longer a purely religious holiday. Under the red stars or under the gilded crosses, it came to mark the feast of spring and the resurrection of hope.