Today is Clean Thursday, a day in the Russian Orthodox tradition where one cleans the house in preparation for the Easter Feast and burns junipur branches to clean out the stuffy winter air from your house. It's also the first day when Kulich(es) appear in the bakeries. A tall pastry much like pannetone, this brioche style bread takes 3-4 days to make and is a treasured Easter treat. I asked my Russian tutor about Easter traditions and she told me about this bread. On my way home, I peaked in the Goriachi Hleb (Hot Bread) stand by our house and was excited to see the tall, round loaves in the window.
I got in line and asked the woman at the window, "Eta Kulich?" "Da" she answers with a smile, amused at the cute little foreigner's interest in this Russian treat. My tall cake in hand, I headed home eagerly anticipating my first Russian Easter treat.
For a recipe: Kulich Recipe
Eggs play a significant role in Easter cooking in Russia. Besides in Kulich, they appear in a crustless cheesecake like dessert as well. I am watching a Russian talk show right now on Easter preparations. They have a nun and a priest along with other guests demonstrating the traditional foods for Easter. It's all in Russian so I am understanding about a third, but it's still kind fun!
On our evening stroll around the neighborhood Thursday, we walked up to Danilovsky Monastary which is the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church. Mostly women were streaming out of the grounds with candles in hand. It was beautiful to see the light being carried out of the church. In protestant traditions, the light gradually is extinguished marking the death of Jesus.
I watched the women guarding their light in the wind, ensuring it didn't go out as they returned to their homes. I think it says something about how their faith has been preserved during Soviet times when the church was supressed by the government. The faith was sustained through the nurture of women much like many significant cultural traditions.
Here's a little peak at my Kulich. Blessings on your Maundy Thursday.