Thursday, 2 May 2013

Happy Paskha!

Easter always occurs later in the year in orthodox Christian countries than in Western christian churches where Easter falls around the time of the March equinox.   This is because Orthodox churches base their Easter date on the Julian calendar, which differs from the modern Gregorian calendar that is used by many western churches (and is the most universally accepted and used calendar), and is about 15 days behind the Gregorian calendar.  Russia adopted the modern calendar in 1918 which is why the 1917 Russian revolution celebrated in November was called the October revolution. 

This year, Easter is on 5 May which, incidentally, falls on the same day as it did in 2002 when I was in Moscow.  In many respects, this added a magical quality to visits to churches, cathedrals and monasteries - with Easter festivities in full swing and the many  bell chimes providing a melodic soundtrack.  

At Kolomnenskoye, the former royal estate to the southeast of the city centre of Moscow, there was a long table crammed with Easter cakes, Kulichi, awaiting bleesing.  Кулич is a traditional Easter bread in Russia and is eaten on the Easter breakfast with decorated eggs. Kulichi are decorated with colored icing two letters - ХВ, which means "Христос Воскрес" (Christ is risen).

 At the Church of Christ the Saviour, I saw Patriach Alexei II, who died in 2008, conduct a mass; then I bumped into him again, on another day, in the Kremlin as he was going from church to church, blessing each one in turn:

There also seemed to be some kind of military celebration going on there at the same time - it appeared to be some kind of passing out parade.

Aeroflot Smells like Mr Men Soap

Have you ever noticed how a smell can immediately to transport you back to an event, place or circumstances where you first encountered it?  I think that it has long been recognised that out of our five senses, smell is one of the most powerful - particularly in evoking memories.  

I had such an experience of this effect last night when I was washing my kids, when I opened a tube of soap i've not used before.  It was Mr Men soap - and it had a peculiar fruity smell. It immediately reminded me of my first flight to Russia on an Ilyhshin 76 Aeroflot flight in 1988. I can't recall exactly what the source of the smell was on the plane (because I don't think I knew at the time), but I attributed it to the smell of the free fruit drink served on the flight - it was billed as "lemonade" but it neither looked nor tasted like lemonade - it was a dark colour which made it look more like apple juice.   It was either that or the fuel smell in the fuselage, or perhaps both. I dunno, but I was immediately taken back to that flight as soon as I smelled this soap.