Hi all. Today is May 5th. Cinco de Mayo! But that isn’t all. It is also the Eastern Orthodox Easter. This is one of my favorite holidays and I felt a great need to post about it; however, I didn’t have time to work up something to explain why this holiday is so awesome. What I decided to do was repost something I wrote for a different blog (Bloggcerto!) last year. I don’t keep up with that blog anymore but I still feel the post is relevant. So check it out below.
*Side note: The title of this post is a traditional Pashcal greeting. Christos Voskrese is Old Church Slavonic meaning Christ has Risen! Apparently is also translates into Rastafarian: Krestos a uprisin! To which the response is: Seen, him a uprisin fe tru! For some reason this makes me laugh.
*Side note #2: We just got a new puppy yesterday so that may explain a lot of why I didn’t want to write entirely original content for this post. I’ll put a picture at the end so you can see him (but you’ve got to read the whole post first). He’s SOO CUTE!!
So this is an amalgamation of several different conversations I had this weekend, via text message or phone call:
Caller/Friend/whoever: “Hey dude, whatchya doin this weekend?”
Me: “I’m home this weekend. Easter!”
Caller/Friend/whoever: “Ya, like Easter was weeks ago bro. Besides, aren’t you Jewish?”
Me: “What? No. I’m not Jewish. Where did that even come from? Anyway, it’s Russian Orthodox Easter!”
Me: “So I can’t go out this weekend.”
Russian Orthodox Easter? What’s that? Why isn’t your Easter just the same time as everyone else? Well, there are a bunch of different answers to these questions, and I will try to answer them quickly and to the best of my knowledge, so we can get to the good part: The SINGING. Essentially, around the 11th century A.D, there was a split between the Roman Catholic Church, and what was then called the Orthodox Catholic Church, which we know today as the simply, the Orthodox Church. I suppose there are many, many differences between the modern-day Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, but what seems important to me, and what differentiates me from being Catholic are three things:
1) Our cross looks like this:
Courtesy of stvlads.com
2) We have Icons which look like this:
Courtesy of Russian-Victories.ru
3) We don’t celebrate Easter the same time as everyone else!
I have been told that this last difference, has to do with some ancient calendar and some qualifications which need to be met be met before we can celebrate Easter, namely that Easter cannot fall before or during Passover.
So what is the big deal? Why is holiday SO EXCITING!!!! Well, in my mind, this holiday is pretty much a celebration of the entirety of Christianity, and at least in the Orthodox faith, it seems to be celebrated as such. One of my favorite traditions is the Easter basket which we have blessed by the priest after the paschal (Easter) service. This was ours this year:
This first picture shows some the traditional contents of an Orthodox Easter basket. Butter with the sign of the cross, eggs which are usually dyed red, but we took a little bit of a liberty with these and died them spring colors! Also, as you can see in the next picture down, the basket usually has bread, and an assortment of different types of meat. Our basket has ham, as well as kielbasa (definitely a Russian influence), which is delicious. Some of the other baskets had various different items such as wine, candy, or really just whatever else you can come up with.
Just like the Roman Catholics, we Orthodox have been fasting for the past 40 days (lent). Traditionally, we don’t eat meat or cheese for the 40 days and then after the paschal service we ‘break the fast’ with these blessed baskets. Just like other Christians who celebrate Lent, a lot of Orthodox ‘give up’ things for lent. It would seem, judging by the contents of some of the other baskets, a lot of people were giving up food. I know when I gave up soda one year, there was definitely a can of coke in our basket that year.
Another cool tradition which helps to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, is the ‘egg game’ of which I have no better name for it than that. Part of the tradition is to die eggs, which represent the rebirth of Christ. We dye them red to signify the blood he shed for us. This year my eggs were 0-2 (I had two eggs and both cracked). Perhaps the coolest part of this whole ordeal, is the Paschal service itself. During the service, the priest, congregation, and choir all participate in a type of call and response ritual as part of the celebration. Here is a link to a Paschal service in Russian, somewhere in Moscow. You can hear the choir and what is in my opinion some of the most beautiful church music ever written. This is some other Orthodox Church music, however it has been translated into English. If any of you use Spotify, search for Orthodox Church music and there are plenty of playlists which have like a billion hours of church music. It really is quite nice to listen to, or study to if that is more your style. Anywho, get the word out. The Eastern Orthodox Religion is one the 2nd largest religions in the world, however nobody in America seems to know what it is. Anyway, Bye for now!
Hurray!! You made it. As promised, a picture of our new puppy. Isn’t he cute!