If you were wondering what the second part of this sentence means it is:
Christ is risen!
This is the traditional Easter salutation in Bulgaria (and I suspect in several other Slavic language countries). The response is:
Voistina voskrese! (In truth is risen!)
My friends, you already know that I don’t do religion very well. Believing in God, particularly in a God that can be an evil, stubborn and angry deity, is not possible for me. Similarly, I can’t be an atheist: atheism in its extreme is no better (probably even worse) than fanatical faith.
I’m agnostic. This way I can recognise that God may not exist but he/she is still real: so much has been done in his/her name. Being an agnostic also keeps my options open: when desperate I can still resort to praying to a supreme being of my own choice.
I also believe that our destiny is in our own hands and the alignment of considerable number of conditions. I believe in social structures and agency (you see, the former provides opportunity and constraints and the latter the willingness and ability to act).
Even today, on this holiest of holy days in the Christian calendar – particularly in the Easter Orthodox Christianity – my mind is very far from God.
But I respect tradition.
I celebrate Easter and follow the traditions of my grandmother and the ones who come before her.
We don’t celebrate with over-prised chocolate eggs. Why would I miss on preparing some of the most delicious seasonal food? (Dropping the chocolate eggs also saves a lot of money.)
There are three essential parts to celebrating Easter in the Orthodox Christian tradition:
#1. Traditional Sweet Easter bread
I still remember my grandmother and my mother making sweet Easter bread. They used to get up very early in the morning to make it. It took the good eight hours of physically challenging work to make the dough, to have it raise couple of times, to shape the bread and to bake it. I reckon, only making the dough equals four-five hours Cross Fit.
Now, chunking up makes sense when so much effort is expanded. We always ended up with a lot of sweet Easter bread. Two days later my Dad will almost have to take an axe to the sweet bread to be able to cut it; the only way to eat it was either with water or with yoghurt.
Don’t let this put you off though. Things have moved on and sweet Easter bread may be 2-3000 calories a look but it is delicious.
I make it in the bread making machine. Here is how:
2 ½ teaspoons yeast
520 g white flour
200 ml whole milk
120 g sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange zest (or lemon)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large eggs
Egg for glaze
#1. Place the milk, 260 g of flour and yeast in the breadmaker and process on dough setting (on mine it is programme 16 and takes 2 hours and 20 minutes)
#2. Mix the rest of the flour (260 g) with the sugar, salt and orange zest.
#3. Once the first dough cycle is complete add the flour mixture, olive oil and eggs. Process on dough setting again.
#4. When the second cycle is complete, remove the dough on floured surface, punch down and form into a ball.
#5. Cover with a towel and leave it to rest for 15 minutes.
#6. Divide and pleat.
#7. Allow the dough to rise (about an hour or place in a over at about 50C for 20 minutes)
#9. Bake for 35-40 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 170C.
After the Easter bread has cooled down, rap it in cling film to prevent it from drying out.
#2. Painted eggs
Painted eggs are a must for good Easter celebration. If you wish to try painting them you need to hard boil a dozen (or more) eggs. This takes approximately 15 minutes. Don’t forget to put a bit of vinegar in the water and to lower the flame after the eggs start boiling: otherwise the eggs will crack and would be no good as Easter eggs.
To colour the eggs, you need to buy special paint; this is sold by many Polish shops or you can buy it on amazon.com.
On Easter day, having an ‘egg fight’ is one of the entertainments. This means that you try to break each other’s egg and the one whose egg is still unbroken at the end of this wins. (I never win.)
Naturally, breakfast includes a hardboiled egg.
#3. Roast lamb
The celebratory lunch is roast lamb. We just had this and I feel so full that my lids are gently closing while writing this.
There is nothing much to roasting lamb. Except that my sister taught me to put is in tray (after rubbing some salt, paprika and olive oil in it) with a cup of water and well covered with foil. Roast it like this for two and a half hours (190C) then take the foil off and keep it in for 20-30 more minutes in the oven.
Easter in Eastern Orthodoxy is also about respect. Young people visit their older relatives to show their respect.
We hosted my family this year.
Now the celebration is over and we have another day of rest. May this day be the first a new, productive cycle for John and me.