Russian Language Blog

Even More About Russian Easter Posted by on Apr 12, 2012 in Culture, Traditions

As promised, here’s the rest of the story about Russian Easter. The first week after Easter Sunday is known as Пасхальная неделя (Easter Week). The biggest day of this week and the peak of the Easter celebration is Красная Горка (Low Sunday).

And here we have the word красный in its meaning of “beautiful” instead of “red”. This is the same красный as in красная девица (a beautiful maiden) from a fairy tale or Красная площадь (the Red Square) in Moscow or красный угол (a corner of the room where icons were kept). It is interesting that in Soviet times, the term and the idea was subverted and became красный уголок (lit: the little red corner, the propaganda room), with красный meaning “red”, the color of the revolution. But I digress…

Traditionally, Красная горка celebrates the advent of spring. This was considered the most благоприятный день (propitious day) for getting married. Кто на Красной горке женится, тот вовек не разведётся. (Those getting married on the Low Sunday will stay married forever).

The day got its other name, Антипасха or Фомино воскресенье (St. Thomas Sunday) from Апостол Фома (Thomas the Apostle), the one who questioned Jesus’ resurrection. So Фома was скептик (a skeptic). Thanks to his изначальное неверие (original doubt), Фома неверующий (Thomas the Doubter) has become имя нарицательное (an appellative) for a person who is hard to persuade to believe something.

Саша, специально для тебя, фомы неверующего, я не спал всю ночь и сфотографировал приземление инопланетян во дворе (Alexandr, just for you, you Thomas the Doubter, I stayed awake all night and took pictures of space aliens landing in our yard).

Не веришь мне и не надо! Вот ещё фома неверующий! (You don’t believe me and it’s ok. Some kind of Thomas the Doubter you are!)

St. Thomas Sunday starts a new week, Фомина неделя (St. Thomas Week). On Tuesday of this week there is another important day to celebrate, Радоница (Radonitsa). It is the day of remembering the dead. But the name of the holiday is related to the word радость (joy), not печаль (mourning). That’s because the living should rejoice knowing that their dear departed entered the eternal life.

That’s why on this day it is common in some parts of Russia to visit loved ones’ могилы (graves) and bring крашеные яйца (dyed eggs) and водка (vodka) there. The tradition requires to roll the eggs and pour vodka on the graves, then give eggs to beggars. This is followed by eating a holiday meal at the grave site and drinking vodka за упокой (for the peace) of the loved one’s soul. In other parts of Russia, however, Радоница is celebrated at home instead.

The Радоница tradition of visiting могилы родных (graves of family members) took on an interesting twist in the Soviet times. Even as late as the 80s celebrating Easter openly and at a church was a big no-no. So instead many people would go to a cemetery, навестить могилки (to visit the graves) of their parents or grandparents on the Easter Day and there they’d celebrate Easter. Since officially we didn’t have нищие (beggars) in the Soviet Union either, the eggs were not given away, but instead left on the graves and, undoubtedly, picked up quietly by the supposedly non-existing beggars.

So I hope that you’ve learned quite a lot about Russian Easter. Are you ready to try making кулич or пасха? If yes, let me know how they turn out.

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  1. Annie:

    Two of my Russian children had orphanages conveniently located near the cemetary so on Radonitsa, they could go get candy from the graves. My daughter keeps this as her happiest memory.

  2. Татьяна:


    • yelena:

      @Татьяна Конечно! Спасибо, Татьяна. Периодически у меня такое случается (что слышится, то и пишется) и я надеюсь на зоркость наших русскоязычных читателей.

  3. Jeannie:

    Интересный блог. Спасибо. Два года тому назад, я была на Урале во время Пасха. В чудесной деревне называется Слобода. Тот ночь я никогда не буду забыть!