Easter in the house of the Romanovs: how the holiday was celebrated in the Imperial family

Easter has always been one of the favorite holidays not only among the people, but also in the Imperial family of the Russian Romanov dynasty. The traditions of its celebration were preserved for centuries and remained unchanged until the revolution. Many of these rites have been revived. In the house of the Romanovs it was celebrated especially solemnly.

Orthodox Easter for the year 2021 is celebrated/ observed on Sunday, May 2.

This day celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion on Orthodox Good Friday. In the United States the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate Church, Russian Orthodox Church, and Greek Hellenic Orthodox Church celebrate the day along with other smaller Orthodox Churches. Many countries around the world celebrate Orthodox Easter including Romania, Republic of Macedonia, Lebanon, Cyprus, Greece, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Baltic States and Russia.

Easter. Watercolor by Grand Duchess Olga Romanova, daughter of Alexander III | Photo:

Since ancient times, among the traditional Easter rituals, the Christian triple kiss have been compulsory. The tradition of kissing each other when meeting was a symbol of mutual love and unity of the followers of Christ. The kings also had Paschal greeting or Christian triple kiss, but in the 19th century the ritual has been somewhat transformed. Until the 1830s. monarchs had a Paschal greeting or Christian triple kiss ( cheek to cheek) or kiss of peace only with the nearest retinue. Tsar Nicholas I introduced the tradition of Paschal greeting with the ordinary people of Imperial Russia, which was supposed to be a demonstration of the inviolability of the triad “Orthodoxy – autocracy – nationality” and a symbol of the equality of people before God.

The Paschal Greeting, also known as the Easter Acclamation Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

The triple kiss of Emperor Nicholas II with the crew members of the yacht * Shtandart *. Livadia, after 1909 | Photo:

Paschal greeting: One is to greet another person with “Christ is risen!” (Christos Anesti “Χριστός ἀνέστη”) – and the response is “He is risen indeed!” (Alithos Anesti Aληθώς ανέστη!), with many variants in English and other languages (compare Matthew 27:64Matthew 28:6–7Mark 16:6Luke 24:6Luke 24:34).

The Paschal greeting of Emperor Nicholas II with the officers of the convoy | Photo:

Especially solemn was the celebration of Easter in 1839. On Christ’s Sunday, the consecration of the restored Winter Palace took place. All the artisans who were engaged in this work were gathered, along their ranks, a procession of the cross was carried out through the ceremonial halls of the palace to the Great Orthodox Church, where the service was held, and then rich “breakfasts” for 3,000 people were arranged for them.

In the 1840s. Tsar Nicholas I had Paschal greetings with hundreds of people, including his servants and Cossack guards. He taught his children to this tradition.

Christ is Risen! – Truly He is Risen! The Emperor’s Family and the Notes of the Tsesarevich Alexei in 1916. | Photo:

Sometimes strange things happened during the Paschal greeting. One of them was described by the French artist O. Vernet: “After the Church service, the Emperor kisses the first person he meets. Usually this is the sentry standing at the door. Several years ago, the Tsar kissed the grenadier of the Preobrazhensky regiment with the words: “Christ is risen!”, To which he replied: “Not at all!” He turned out to be a Jew. Since then, all the Jews have been transferred to the Navy, and not one of them has remained in the ground forces. This is what the fate of people depends on here. “

Nicholas II congratulates the ranks of the Preobrazhensky regiment on Easter, 1900s. | Photo:

The tradition of Paschal greetings with ordinary people was preserved under Alexander II, and Emperor Alexander III had The Paschal Greetings not only with guards and servants, but also with volost elders and Old Christian Believers. Nicholas II supported the tradition of mass Christian celebrations, which lasted from 2 to 4 days. In his diaries, he did not only described the procedure itself, but even recorded the exact number of people: “March 23, 1896 – 288 people. We went to bed at about 4 o’clock in the morning, when dawn was already breaking. At 11.30 o’clock, Christian rituals began with all the people in the Malachite room of the Winter Palace; nearly 500 people received Easter eggs. March 26 – Great Paschal Greetings with all sergeants and Easter guards. “

Easter. Watercolor by Grand Duchess Olga Romanova, daughter of Alexander III. Fragment | Photo:
Easter. Watercolor by Grand Duchess Olga Romanova, daughter of Alexander III | Photo:

Paskha  here is the pyramid shaped sweet cheese made from tvorog.

The Easter Acclamation procedure for the Emperor and his wife, Empress was rather tedious. Although soldiers were advised not to cut their beards and mustaches, so as not to prick the august persons, the Emperor’s cheek and Empress’s hand swelled from countless touches. Anna Vyrubova, the lady-in-waiting of the Empress recalled:

“On Easter Sunday, for two hours, Their Majesties had Paschal greetings (Easter Acclamation). The Emperor greeted the lower ranks of the guards, police, convoy, the crew of the yacht Shtandart, etc. The Empress greeted the children of local schools. At our last common Divine Service in Crimea, the Empress’s heart was so weak that it was very difficult for her to both bow and get up from her knees. Little Tsarevich Alexei was touchingly and tenderly helping and supporting his mother.”

Easter. Watercolor by Grand Duchess Olga Romanova, daughter of Alexander III | Photo:
Easter still life of Grand Duchess Olga Romanova | Photo:

After the service, a nationwide celebration began. People went to visit each other, the traditional treat was Easter made of cottage cheese, raisins and sour cream and a Easter cake covered in white icing with the monogram “ХВ – “Christ is Risen” printed on it. In the most widely used language, Church Slavonic: Хрїсто́съ Воскре́се! – Вои́стинꙋ Воскре́се! (Xristósŭ voskrése! – Voístinu voskrése!)

The tradition of giving Easter eggs was born in 1885. Soldiers received painted porcelain eggs with a royal monogram as a gift from the Emperor. At the same time, began to produce jewelry Easter eggs.

Paskha. Cheese paskha is a traditional Easter dish made from quark (curd cheese, Russian: творог, tr. tvorog), which is white, symbolizing the purity of Christ, the Paschal Lamb, and the joy of the Resurrection. It is formed in a mould, traditionally in the shape of a truncated pyramid (a symbol of the Church; this form is also said to represent the Tomb of Christ).  It is usually served as an accompaniment to rich Easter breads called paska in Ukraine and kulich in Russia (where the “paskha” name is also used in the Southern regions).
The pascha is decorated with traditional religious symbols, such as the “Chi Ro” motif, a three-bar cross, and the letters X and B (Cyrillic letters which stands for Христосъ Воскресе. This is the Slavonic form of the traditional Paschal greeting: “Christ is Risen!”). All of these religious decorations symbolize Christ’s Passion and Resurrection.

The first such piece of jewelry from Carl Faberge was presented by Alexander III to Maria Feodorovna. Since then, every year for Easter, Faberge prepared such gifts for the imperial family.

Left – Easter card with Tsar Nicholas II, 1916. Right – the first Faberge Easter egg | Photo:

Easter in 1917 Tsar Nicholas II and his family met in captivity in the Alexander Palace of Tsarskoe Selo. The saddest was the last Easter for the family of the Emperor in 1918. Nicholas II wrote in his diary: “At the request of Dr Botkin (the family doctor of the Romanovs), a priest and a deacon were admitted to us at 8 o’clock. They served quickly and well; It was a great consolation to pray even in such an atmosphere and hear “Christ is Risen” … In the morning we had Paschal Greetings among ourselves and ate red eggs, we could not get a traditional Easter festive dish (Paskha) anywhere.

” On the night of July 17, 1918, the members of the Imperial family were shot.

For many years, Easter traditions were forgotten, but now they are being revived again. Source

Nicholas II’s gift to Maria Feodorovna for Easter 1915 | Photo:

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2 replies »

  1. While this is an interesting article, it pays to proof read when using a translation engine – where it talks about “Christening” it should be ‘exchanged Paschal greetings”, and where it talks about eating Easter (1918) it is actually paskha which they are eating – (Paskha is also the Russian word for Easter, but the reference here is to the pyramid shaped sweet cheese made from tvorog.)
    I know you are not responsible for the pictures, but the photo of the diary is not a diary of Nicholas II, but the 1916 one of Tsesarevich Alexei.

    Liked by 1 person

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