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March 27, 2005

Sakhalin: Easter

I had to work on Easter Sunday, but I managed to go to the Russian Orthodox church in the morning. I read that Easter is a bigger event than Christmas here, and I was surprised that there was so little fuss and no public holidays. Surprised that is, until Jane pointed out that the Orthodox calendar is different and that Easter is celebrated much later. So that explained why the church service was so low-key...

I had been told by Russian colleagues to cover my head when I went in the church, so I wrapped a scarf over my hair, not wanting to offend anyone. There was a sign on the door with a picture of a fedora with a red bar across it, and I wondered whether that meant no hats, or no fedoras, or no head covering? I peered in and it turned out that no one seemed too bothered either way - there were hats, scarves, bare heads, you name it. There were no seats and the congregation just milled around, coming and leaving as they pleased. People talked and mobile phones rang, and it was all very relaxed. Lots of people bought candles and kissed the pictures of icons on the walls. It is a modern church but built in a traditional style and the inside is white with beautiful ornate candelabra-style chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. There are paintings all around with lots of gold leaf halos and two-dimensional figures. The choir were up in a balcony and there was a nun walking around with a collection plate. The clergy were either in black or ornate brocade robes and all looked quite tough with long ZZ Top beards. The main priest had a hat like a tea cosy with gorgeous embroidery and glittery beads and a gold cross on the top. They gave communion with an intricately decorated chalice and then the sermon started and I beat a hasty - but inconspicuous - retreat to the office.

Posted by Rowena on March 27, 2005 04:52 AM
Category: Russia
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