Growing up in Russia of the 60s-70s in the atheistic society, I didn’t know much about Easter as a religious holiday. Even though in non-religious Soviet Russia, churches were closed, and all the religious holidays were banned, many Russian families managed to celebrate Easter their own “non-religious” way. In my family, Easter was all about food: special deserts, Easter salad, and earthy red-brownish eggs.
I remember Easter of my childhood as a colorful holiday with the abundance of food that an average Russian family could afford. My mother would spend a day or two preparing a variety of dishes for Easter breakfast and lunch. First came deserts – paskha and kulich. Paskha was made of cottage cheese pressed tightly in a special shape with sugar and raisins. Kulich was a type of sweet bread made of yeast dough with icing on top (very much resembles Italian Easter bread in taste).
The spring salad on the Easter table was a must. It was traditional Russian salad with boiled vegetables and meat, infused with mayonnaise, but the Easter version included one spring ingredient that made the whole salad delicious - fresh cucumbers. Back then in Russia, we didn’t have fresh vegetable for sale all year round. Fresh cucumbers appeared in stores only in March-April; therefore, they were a sign of spring coming.
Dying eggs for Easter was another essential part of the holiday. My mom used onion peels that gave the eggs the earthy brownish color. Much later, when dying colors were available in stores, we got eggs of different colors on the Easter table. Traditionally, we started Easter breakfast with an egg fight, a game, when we tried to crack the eggs of other members of the family by tapping them. The winner was the one who cracked most of the eggs. That was so much fun!
Much later, in the 90s, Russians started to openly attend churches on Easter and bring baskets of food to church to get them blessed, but in my childhood, Easter was nothing but a colorful spring family feast.