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19 Aug, 2007 13:40

Orthodox Russia marks Transfiguration of Jesus

Sunday marks a traditional church holiday in Russia known as the Apple Feast Day. For Russian Orthodox Christians, it is a time to mark the Transfiguration, a time to pray and a time to feast on a specific fruit.

The Head of Russia's Orthodox Church, Patriarch Aleksy II, has held a service in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral.

And according to tradition if one makes a wish while eating an apple on this day it will come true.

The apple is a fruit of many meanings. For some it is the fruit of health, for others, of temptation. But for the Russian Orthodox community it bears a much deeper meaning. Blessed during a prayer service, apples are the centrepiece of what the Orthodox Christians call “The Apple Feast Day”.

“The Gospel states that Jesus led three of his disciples – Peter, John the Apostle and James the Great to pray at a mountain top. Once at the top, Jesus became transfigured, his face shining like sun and his clothes a brilliant white. His disciples fell down on their knees. Today we remember this event and it’s as if we were taking part in it,” said Philip Hieromonch, a priest from St Daniel monastery.

The fruit and vegetables are not consumed before the blessing, only afterwards are the apples considered ripe enough to eat. Russians conclude the spiritual occasion with a fair – singing, dancing, and doing just about anything with apples. Organizers of the fair say the traditional event was established centuries ago.

“It was a certain occasion which provided fellowship of people and exchange of goods. People sang, danced and joked, and even dated and married there,” Alexander Ushakov, the fair director, explained.

Many Russians say the tradition reflects a desire to sanctify and bless all things around them. And while this holiday is marked by prayer, fruit and festivities, the core of this celebration is tradition: a tradition passed on from generation to generation.