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Easter celebrations have revived in Russia since the demise
Easter celebrations have revived in Russia since the demise of the Soviet Union, with both practicing Christians and non-believers celebrating the holiday.

Many people started Easter Sunday with jubilant greetings "Christ is risen!" and "He has indeed risen!" followed by three kisses and the exchange of Easter eggs. Both the pious and non-believers have long family feasts with paschal delicacies, including Easter cakes and generously spiced and sweetened cream cheese, or barbeques.

A VTsIOM pollster citing a survey said earlier that 60% of Russians had planned to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

Easter begins on Holy Saturday evening, with a long church vigil commemorating the buried Christ. The service lasts into the early hours of Sunday and culminates in a grand midnight procession, which is often attended by non-believers attracted by its majestic pageantry.

Politicians and top officials are now often seen at church services on religious holidays.

The service in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior on the banks of the Moskva River in central Moscow, was attended by outgoing president Vladimir Putin and his successor Dmitry Medvedev, who stood close to the altar clutching candles.

A group of pilgrims had delivered the Holy Fire from Jerusalem to the central Russian cathedral by the night service. The Holy Fire that is lit every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem the day preceding Orthodox Easter, is believed by Orthodox Christians to be a miracle.

From Moscow the Holy Fire, which pilgrims say does not burn in the first 33 minutes after it has been lit, is "distributed" among churches in containers similar to those used for the Olympic flame.

Russia's other Easter traditions include painting and coloring eggs - normally red as a symbol of the blood of Christ - and cracking them on Sunday. People also bring cakes and other food to the church on Saturday to be blessed by priests.

Many Russians started Easter Sunday by visiting the graves of their late loved ones, although the church does not quite approve of the tradition saying Easter is a time of joy rather than sad reflection.

The subway and other methods of public transport extended their working hours until 3 a.m. on Sunday for churchgoers to be able to return home after the late night service.

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