The day started off pretty much like any other, classes in the morning, lunch and then a break. As I went downstairs for my usual afternoon coffee which is when the kids have their snack time, I was told that is was Aisha's birthday and we would be singing to her and having birthday cake. Aisha is in my middle group and has just turned 4. It's certainly interesting to see how different cultures celebrate different things. Firstly, all the other kids make a circle around Aisha and they were all clapping and singing as they stretched out and made a big circle and then a small circle, almost squashing little Aisha in the middle. After singing I presume "happy birthday" in Russian, Aisha chose one of the kids to go into the centre of the cirlce with her and they danced around while everyone else continued to clap and sing. She danced with about three different partners before they stopped and brought in the birthday cake and then the usual blowing out of candles took place with everyone clapping. Snack time consisted of birthday cake of course instead of the usual fruit and biscuits.
Another party? At the end of the day I went into the kitchen for dinner only to be told that dinner would be served later. I had no clue what was going on. Thank goodness for Julia and her limited English. Apparently the father of one of the teachers had passed away and it's customary for the Russian Orthodox Christians to remember the deceased on the 40th day with what is called a rememberance feast. There is a saying in Russian, "if your parents are living - honour them; if they are deceased - remember them."
The feast consisted of stewed fruit which symbolised the spiritual sweetness offered in the afterlife. This was cooked as part of the sauce for the stuffed cabbages, stuffed peppers and stuffed tomatoes. A vegetable salad and pickled peppers also filled the table as did wine and juice. I saw cream on table which I noticed the others had with the stuffed vegetables. It was definitely a feast! I asked Julia if I needed to say anything or if there woud be prayers of sorts and she said "no, it's a happy occasion and we just eat". It was certainly festive with everyone drinking wine and laughing and just being merry.
Sadly, I could not join in the discussions so I just observed from the side. My son always said I would never be able to not talk for a length of time as I love to talk so much. Well, as it happened, I sat quitely for a few hours as I couldn't join in and it really didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. After dinner we had sweets, which is also customary as it aids the departed in the afterlife.
It was certainly an interesting day!