Today is Easter Sunday. Although, if I were still following the Orthodox Easter traditions, it would be Palm Sunday. I was born on Palm Sunday, so many years ago, and it was actually Palm Sunday for both the Orthodox and Western churches.
My mother was strictly religious. We fasted for the 40 days before Easter, which in our house meant no meat for us. In the last week leading up to Easter Sunday, there was no meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs and pretty much no joy in life. My mother would begin to prepare for our Easter feast several days before Easter. In the Russian tradition she would bake Kulich (a tall Easter cake), make Paskha (a cottage cheese dessert) and color eggs. Of course, I was allowed to help with everything.
The Paskha should be made two or three days before Easter Sunday. My mother would pile the cottage cheese into a clean cloth, then place it in a washed plastic pot plant container. The container would be placed in a bowl on top of an upturned saucer, and she would then put a brick on top of the folded cloth to press the moisture out. This contraption would sit in the fridge overnight. Then the real work began. My father would put the drained cottage cheese, together with butter, through a sieve into a bowl where it would be mixed with the egg yolks, sugar (way too much sugar) and sour cream and I can’t remember what else. It would then be put back into another clean cloth to drain overnight again. On Easter Sunday, just before we went to the midnight service, my mother would take it out of the cloth and form it into a pyramid shape. She would then make the letters X and B with raisins on two opposite sides of the pyramid. These letters stood for the words Хрїсто́съ воскре́се! which in Russian means Christ is Risen.
Meanwhile, on Good Friday, the Kulich would have been baked in tins my mother had saved from tins of juices, fruit or vegetables, washed and with the labels removed. The tall cakes were decorated with a thin runny icing and sprinkles. Also, on Good Friday we would color the eggs my mother had boiled. With a beeswax candle, we would write X and B on them, or draw pictures of flowers, or designs, before dipping them into hot water mixed with different food colors. When they were colored to a satisfactory depth, we would lift them out with a spoon to drain on paper towel, letting them dry before rubbing them with a bit of butter to make them shiny.
At around 10pm on Easter Saturday, my mother would wake me up and dress me in warm clothes. We would drive the 30 minutes or so to the church where the service would culminate in a candlelight procession three times around the church, stopping at the door which had been closed. On the stroke of midnight, the priest would knock three times on the door, which was flung open and the choir would sing triumphantly. After the service we would get home around 1 or 2 in the morning and feast on roast beef, ham, colored eggs, potato salad, paskha and kulich.
It is holidays like Easter when I miss my mother the most.