This year, orthodox Easter exceptionally falls on the same date as western Christian Easter. As you may know, the orthodox church still follows the Julian calendar, while all other Christians switched to the Gregorian calendar a couple of centuries ago.
Russian Easter traditions include church services and religious processions (of course), baking kulich (Easter bread) and painting eggs, which are traditionally dyed red, the colour of the blood of Christ, using onion peels.
On Easter Sunday, people greet each other with “Христос воскрес!” (Khristos voskres; Christ has risen) and reply “Воистину воскрес!” (Voistinu voskres; Truly He has risen). After that, they hug and kiss three times, for belief, hope and love.
Fortunately for most people participating it, but sadly for me, Easter also means the end of Lent. As I’ve written before, Lent is a real feast for veggies here, who are shamefully neglected the rest of the year. You can find some vegetarian products (like plant-based milk and dairy-free mayonnaise) in supermarkets, which are often marked as “постный” (Postnyi; Lenten) and most restaurants have a separate vegetarian Lenten menu.
Especially this year, I was very glad that in Russia, Lenten products and dishes are mostly even vegan instead of ‘just’ vegetarian as I set myself the challenge of not eating any animal products for 46 days. If you wonder how I managed not to starve, I invite you to have a look at my Instagram account.
Who knows maybe this was the start of long-term dietary change, like the Dagen Zonder Vlees (Days Without Meat) inspired me to go veggie a couple of years ago. However, I don’t think that’s very likely as long as we’re still in Russia, where you have to be very resourceful once Easter has passed…
Picture taken from here.
I think the 40 days before Russian Easter (which will be on 1 May this year) are my favorite period of time in this country. Winter is finally on its last legs and it gets lighter, warmer and greener again. But what’s maybe even better: it’s the time of “пост” or Russian Lent.
The principle of Lent in the orthodox church is quite similar to Lent in Belgium or other catholic countries: it’s a period of fasting, in which it’s not allowed to eat certain foods. In Belgium there are hardly any people left who still participate in Lent for religious reasons. Most people who still do it (there aren’t many) are rather motivated to set themselves a challenge, to care better for their health or to reduce their ecological footprint, hence the very popular campaign “Days without meat” (which was in fact what triggered me to become a vegetarian!).
In Russia, however, Lent is still mostly religiously inspired. And it’s a lot stricter too. Whereas in catholicism, there are – as far as I know – no clear rules anymore (some people don’t drink alcohol, some people don’t eat meat, some no candy). In the orthodox church, fasting means: no meat, no fish, no dairy products, no eggs, no oil and no alcohol. On some days, even total fast is kept.
As there are still many more people practicing their faith here, Lent is a much bigger deal here too. Many restaurants have a special “Lenten menu”, all dishes of which are completely vegetarian and often even vegan! Having such a hard time trying to find veggie options all the rest of the year (even more now that I’m pregnant and salads and soft cheeses are out of the picture too) you can imagine how thrilled I am about this!
And that’s not all; I even spotted some veggie products in the supermarket the other day. They had a special “Lenten shelf” with different kinds of Alpro soy milk (our Belgian pride!), vegan sauces and dressings and vegan sausages. I tried two of the latter. One of them didn’t exactly turn out to be a sausage (although it looked like it) but some kind of paté (паштет ). I used it to make a veggie variant of the popular Belgian martino sandwich:
The other sausages were similar to hot dog sausages and so I used them for a simple but delicious dish we got introduced to by Chilean friends: completos:
Too bad I missed the beginning of Lent as I was in Belgium and I’ll miss the end as we’ll be in Italy. But I’m definitely already looking forward to next year!