All Saints’ Day in Russia – the Red Way

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1.11.2013 Posted in Traditions No Comments

800px-RO_BV_Easter_eggs_1November 1 is a national holiday in  most of the countries in Europe. It is the day when many go to the cemeteries to visit the tombs of their departed relatives.

In the Russian Orthodox religion we have few such days in spring and summer. They follow the religious calendar and usually fall on a Saturday. To reconcile the  need to visit the tomb of a deceased relative at least once a year with the demands of everyday life, decades of neglecting the religion and the discomfort of being outside in such a cold climate, Russians go to the cemeteries at the beginning of May.

Late Spring is the best time for this kind of visit after a long winter, during which the cemeteries are covered with heaps of snow and are often inaccessible.

So at the beginning of May, with its first rays of the sun, visitors bring flowers to the tombs and  have … an improvised pic- nic to honor  their ancestors – a glass of vodka with a small appetizer, zakuski – marinated cucumbers, hard cheese or hard boiled eggs. Because the first visit of the year often takes place after Easter, people leave Easter-related items on the tombs, such as colored Orthodox Easter eggs, blinis and why not – another glass of vodka for their departed relatives.

The best- known cemetery in Moscow is Novodevichie. It contains the tombs of famous people and some impressive monuments. One of the most visited tombs is that of the founder and the main clown of the State Circus, Uri Nikulin, and his faithful dog, a Giant Schnauzer, Fyodor. Always decorated with fresh flowers, his fans also bring cigarettes to the statue of the famous clown, known as a ceaseless smoker.

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