My dear friend Tanya sent this to me today:
Dear brothers and sisters,
From all our hearts we send you our greetings on the coming holiday of Christ’s resurrection! May all the sorrows and troubles retreat before the radiance of Easter which opens the doors of heavens to us. Orthodox Easter is on the 19-th of April, but we are sending you beforehand our traditional Easter cake “kulich” and painted eggs which are in every home on this day.
With love, Samara CrossRoads team
(The card says: on the day of Holy Easter)
Do you notice the red eggs? This is the most popular and traditional way to “paint” the eggs and the practice comes from a story concerning Mary Magdelene (not from the Bible, but from historical tradition). You can read about it at this blog: http://psalterstudies.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/red-easter-eggs/ and also see a few pictures of actual eggs, and get a simple “recipe” for coloring your own red eggs using yellow onion skins (a money saver!)
In addition, eggs are a forbidden food during the 40 day Orthodox Lenten fast (see my post on this below). This abstaining from eggs makes them just that much more special to eat on Easter. They are given as celebratory gifts to friends and neighbors along with the greeting “Christ is Risen!” Even unbelievers practice this custom.
As for the cake (kulich) it is the most famous Russian easter bread–not really a cake in the sense we think. It has a tall, narrow shape (a Slavic form)and is baked in a special pan, almost like a coffee can. The kulich is based on a baba dough, with more sugar, plus additions of candied peel, almonds, raisins, and saffron. The bulging top is iced and decorated, usually with Cyrillic letters standing for ‘Christ is risen’. Traditionally the kulich is taken to be blessed at midnight mass on the eve of Easter Sunday. In some families it replaces bread for the entire Holy Week.
Yes, I’m very much looking forward to my eggs on Sunday!