Come April 15, there will be the famous exhange of three kisses on either cheek, easter eggs and merry making to celebrate Paskha (great night) among the Russians who live in the state.
Like with Christmas and New Year, the Russians follow a different calendar when it comes to observing Easter. So while most of the Christian world, including Goan Catholics, observed and commemorated important events like the Last Supper, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ last week, culminating with Easter celebrations on Sunday, the Russians will do the same this week, with their Easter being celebrated next Sunday: One week behind the rest of the world.
Sofia Singh, a Russian who hails from Ulyanovsk, the birth place of Lenin, and is now a resident of Calangute, has not planned anything special to celebrate Easter next week. The mother of two, who is married to an Indian, recalls that back in Russia people exchanged red easter eggs- red being the Communist colour. However, these days, people also exchange other kinds of easter eggs, she says. During the Communist rule, which lasted till 1992, regular church activities were forbidden, except for Easter, which was widely celebrated. However, after ‘Glasnost’, Russians are free to practise any religion. One Russian tradition Singh says she is going to miss is Kulich- a special cake with dried fruits like almonds, apricots, raisins, etc, made for Easter celebrations. “Everyone back home makes or buys one,” she says, regretting that she can’t do the same in Goa. It’s the equivalent of hot-cross buns here, and on top of the cake, instead of a cross, there’re the words XB-Christ has risen. On Easter day, she plans to meet some of her Russian friends in Morjim for a small celebration.
The difference in their calendar also means that no Russians will visit Goan churches alongside other Christians who will observe Easter on Sunday. Russians who live in Goa do not really observe Holy Week either, since orthodox Christian services are not held anywhere in the state. However, a few devout orthodox Christian Russians will observe fasts.
But since Easter celebrations on Sunday will be widespread in Goa, the party-loving Russians are set to celebrate Easter twice-on Sunday and once again the following weekend- when there are a lot of parties planned in areas like Morjim, Mandrem, etc which have a large number of Russian visitors who come and stay for a few months at a time to escape the harsh winter back home. It’s still winter in Russia, with Easter marking the advent of spring, when the snow begins to thaw.
On Easter day, Russians have a unique tradition: They visit the graves of their dear departed ones to offer prayers. The Russians also do not have anything like the way of the cross service on Good Friday. Instead, they simply worship an image of Jesus which is placed in the centre of the church. On Easter night or Paskha, Russians greet their fellow Christians by kissing each other three times on both cheeks and formally with the words: Christ has risen.
Easter is an occasion for the Russians to get together as a community, much like Christmas is a time for Goan families to come together. Russiand across the state, say they will be getting together with fellow Russians in Morjim or Mandrem- areas that have a Russian community of sorts. Their party places of choice? Nightspots along the coastal belt which promise to enthrall them with Russian themes, DJs and music.
The Russian community, who claims to prefer partying with fellow Russians beacuse of the communication gap with most locals, has planned many underground or private parties to celebrate Easter. As a result of the perceived “cultural invasion” by the Russians in Morjim, Mandrem, Ashvem, and Arambol areas, they say they would prefer to keep their celebrations low-key. However, because the Russians tend to celebrate their festivals together and on a different date from other Christians, many Goans tend to react negatively to what they perceive as the “elitist” attitude of the Russians.
On the other hand, many long-time Russian visitors in Goa, like Larissa from St Petersburg, who stays in Candolim for a few months every year, will not be observing Easter or Holy Week at all because she is a Brahmakumari. Many Russians say they are here because of their fondness for Indian culture and they prefer to celebrate Indian festivals.