Orthodox Christians rejoice following Easter Vigil

Over 5,000 people attended at the vigil in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, the Itar Tass news agency reported, citing the cathedral’s security. Among those present were the country’s leaders.

President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin arrived at the country’s main cathedral to join the congregants for the all-night Easter vigil.

The vigil started at about 11 p.m. The faithful lit their candles from the Holy Fire, which is transported every year especially from Jerusalem. Close to midnight the congregants joined in the sacred procession around the churches, carrying candles lit from the Holy Fire. The people then spoke the traditional declaration, “Christ has risen! Christ has risen indeed!”

The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill, conducted the service in 16 languages to stress the unity of Christians all over the world. He greeted all those present, calling on them to keep the joy of Easter night as long as possible in their hearts.

Watch Easter address of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia

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This year the date for Easter celebrations for Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Protestants has coincided.

In light of the recent attacks on the Moscow Metro, authorities have ordered tighter security measures throughout the capital. Over the weekend 11,000 police officers are providing security in Moscow, which is 2,000 more than last year.

Feasting after fasting

For many Orthodox Christians, Easter is the most important religious holiday, providing an opportunity to celebrate the victory of life over death. The holiday comes after 49 days of strict fasting, which now ends with a feast.

“We cook many delicious things – we paint eggs, make Paskha cheese, many meat dishes, and of course Kulich!” says Liliya Ivanova.

Kulich, or sweet Easter bread, boasts hundreds of recipes and every family protects their own secret method with great care.

“This is how my grandma used to cook it! Yeast has to be alive – not dry! When the pastry is ready, we add nuts, raisins and candied fruits,” Lilya says.

Recipes have been passed down through the generations of each family, though the Easter feast is much more than just a meal.

“Easter is our family's favorite holiday! We all gather on a big table, we pray and eat all together. This is one of the most affecting moments, when you feel united with all your relatives,” Lilya says.

It takes the whole day to prepare Kuliches and when they leave the oven, it is time to add the final decorative touches.

“I made X and V from marzipan – which stands for ‘Xristos Voskres’ in Russian. It means Christ has risen,” Liliya’s daughter Masha explains.

For Russian Orthodox families, Kulich is traditional Easter bread. As a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the sweet pies are the main feature of Russian Easter, of course together with Easter eggs. After seven weeks of Lent, it is hard to look at them without being tempted to get stuck in. Beforehand, however, they first have to be blessed by a priest.

Easter is traditionally the time when most Russians believers head to church. This year, polls say that previous attendance records have been broken, with 90% of the population celebrating the Christian holiday. Among them are followers of different religions and even those who do not believe in God at all.

This Sunday and the following week, known as Bright Week, it is forbidden to remember or even think about bad things. It is a time for happiness because, as Christians believe, Easter is a time of great joy, the time of Christ’s return and the resurrection of hope.