Unlike churches in Europe, the Orthodox Church in Russia is gaining importance. Here, they get a lot of attention, and flowers play a major role in the experience and perception of the churchgoer. Like with the Russian Orthodox Easter, last weekend.
The History of Two Calendars
The first thing to know about Russian Orthodox Easter is that this religious celebration is not in the same period as most parts of the world. The majority of Christianity already celebrated Easter 2021 on the 4th of April. However, Russian Orthodox believers celebrated their Easter almost one month later, on 2 May last. The reason for this difference lies in the historic adaptation of different calendars. This requires a little history lesson…
You might not know it, but the global standard is the Gregorian calendar. That’s the one used by the vast majority of the world since a certain Pope Gregory decided this in the 16th century. But the Russian Czar Peter the Great stuck to the good old Julian calendar – named after Julius Caesar – which derived slightly from the Gregorian calendar.
On 1 January 1918, the new Bolshevik leaders of Russia eventually decided to get in line with the rest of Europe, and they also changed the calendar to the Gregorian calendar. However, the Russian Orthodox Church continues to use the old Julian calendar. And that meant that Russian families celebrate religious holidays somewhat later. Russian Christmas eve, for instance, is always celebrated on 6 January. And Russian Orthodox Easter this year on 2 May.
Churches often even employ one or more of their own florists, who have knowledge of the tradition of flower arrangements in church buildings. There are also traditions for the use of flowers with shapes and especially colors in the Russian church. Red, pink, green, yellow, and white are the most commonly used colors. Several variations of the colors mentioned are used for this. But as with many traditions, we also see developments here. Over time, of course, many more types and colors of flowers have become available, which can also be used in Russian churches.
Easter Is Bigger Than Christmas
Easter in Russia is an even bigger church celebration than Christmas. It is therefore quite special that one of the largest and most important cathedrals in Russia, the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg, was allowed to be decorated by Sobolj with flowers on the occasion of Easter 2021.
The project included the decoration of the cathedral with flowers (chrysanthemums) for the start of the church services on the occasion of Easter. Two services were held at Easter, which, due to the importance of this cathedral, were broadcast by both regional and national television channels. For example, not only twice a few thousand worshipers who attended the services, but also tens of millions of viewers could see how Dutch chrysanthemums gave Russian Orthodox Easter an extra atmosphere.
Sixteen Florists in the Kazan Cathedral
The Kazan Cathedral also employs its own florists, who ensure that the decoration and arrangements comply with ‘the rules’. A team of sixteen florists, two from the cathedral and fourteen from Sobolj‘s team, worked hard for two days to decorate eleven objects with chrysanthemums in various rooms. Special icons and candlesticks are only displayed once a year, on the occasion of Easter, and it is precisely these objects that got an extra touch with the floral decoration.
Just Chrys, the Dutch organization that represents around 200 stakeholders from the sector, had made 1,500 stems available for this purpose from 46 different chrysanthemums varieties. The florists of Sobolj had also made some special bouquets, which were handed over by dignitaries in the ecclesiastical hierarchy to the Metropolitan and other church leaders.
That the application of Dutch chrysanthemums by a team of Russian florists in the Kazan Cathedral on the occasion of Russian Orthodox Easter was a success is evident from the reaction of father Aleksandr, the administrator of the cathedral; he wrote to us: “Thank you very much for your good deed. Everyone was very satisfied with the flower decoration.”
For those interested, I would like to refer to Flower Experience, the platform of Sobolj, on which beautiful images from the Kazan Cathedral can be seen: