Paskha, Pascha, Pashka, or Pasha (Russian: Па́сха, "Easter") is a festal dish made in Eastern Orthodox countries of those foods which are forbidden during the fast of Great Lent. It is made during Holy Week and then brought to church on Great Saturday to be blessed after the Paschal Vigil. The name of the dish comes from Pascha, the Eastern Orthodox celebration of Easter.
In the Russian Orthodox tradition, pascha is usually molded in the form of a truncated pyramid (a symbol of the Church; also said to represent the Tomb of Christ). It is traditionally made in a wooden mould assembly called пасочница (pasochnitsa) that can be taken apart for cleaning; but more modern materials, such as plastics, are used nowadays.
The pascha is decorated with traditional religious symbols, such as the "Chi Ro" motif, a three-bar cross, the letters X and B (Cyrillic letters standing for Христосъ Воскресe which is the Slavonic form of the traditional Paschal greeting: "Christ is Risen!"), eggs, and a lance, all symbolizing Christ's Passion and Resurrection.
The paskha can be either cooked or uncooked (raw). Cooked pascha is made in the form of an egg custard, to which the remaining ingredients are folded in. An uncooked pascha is made simply of the raw curd and the other ingredients mixed at room temperature. Since uncooked curd cannot be conserved for a long period of time, these paschas are typically made smaller.
The tvorog is first pressed in order to eliminate the maximum amount of liquid possible, then put twice through a sieve to make a homogenous mass. If the pascha is cooked, this mass is then heated. The pan containing the mixture is then placed in a container of cold water and progressively cooled, then placed in the pasotchnitza with a layer of cheese cloth protecting the mould. The mould is cooled for twelve hours in a cold, but not freezing place (typically in a cellar or refrigerator). Finally, the mould is removed and the paskha put on a dish. It may then be decorated with candied fruits, nuts, or flowers.
The pascha (or at least a portion of it) will be placed in an Easter basket together with other festal foods, and taken to church to be blessed. Pascha is traditionally accompanied by a rich Easter bread called Kulich.
An 18th-century church in St. Petersburg is known as "Kulich and Paskha", because the rotunda of the church resembles kulich, while the adjacent belfry has a pyramidal form reminiscent of paskha (photographs here).
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