Orthodox Russians prepare for Easter
by Nina Achmatova
Sunday, April 15 the Orthodox Easter is celebrated, but according to polls, only 2% of Russians will participate in religious services

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Orthodox Russians have entered into Holy Week and are preparing to celebrate Easter on April 15. After the coincidences of the last two years, when Easter was celebrated by all Catholic and Orthodox Christians on the same day, this year the holiday falls with the difference of a week.

The most intense period of the religious calendar began on April 7 with the feast of the Annunciation, celebrated by the Russian, Serbian, Macedonian, Georgian Orthodox and those in Jerusalem. The day of the Annunciation was a public holiday and there is the custom of releasing doves into the sky, after the religious services, as a symbol of peace and the Holy Spirit.

Palm Sunday is celebrated in Russia on 8 April. This Sunday is called the Verbena, because branches of this plant are used during the liturgy, which opens Holy Week.

With Easter the so-called Great Fast (Russian Lent), which began on February 27 this year, ends. Saturday, April 14, the Holy Light arrives from Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, from which thousands of candles will be lit for the Easter Vigil in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. During this function, the officiating priest symbolically removes the shroud from the tomb and comes with a procession from the church to search for the body of Christ. After he has completed a pre-announced path for the faithful he chants: "Christos voskrès!" (Christ is Risen!). And they respond, "Voistinu voskres" ('Truly he is risen'). This formula is also used in greetings to relatives and friends.

On Easter Sunday, a great meal is prepared, which brings together all the family and where some of the dishes are made and blessed the night before in church. The traditional specialties are kulich - a kind of leavened cake with icing - the Paskha - a dessert made of cream cheese - and eggs, usually colored.

Although Easter is the central feast in the Orthodox calendar, only 2% of the Russians participate in religious celebrations, as revealed by a recent poll by the Levada Center, one of the most authoritative independent opinion polling institutes in the country.