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Palm Sunday on The Arbat

April 14, 2009 at 9:13 am
By Brian Kilgour and Jennifer Hightower

Last Sunday (April 12) was Palm Sunday according to the Russian Orthodox Church calendar. It also happened to be the nicest day of our trip yet. With these two events coinciding, massive numbers of Muscovites took to the streets to celebrate. The traditional street to gather on in Moscow is the Arbat, which was considered the most high-class residential area in the 19th century. It is also known for its Bohemian past.  Some of its most famous residents inclue Pushkin and the bard singer Bulat Okudzhava. 

On Sunday, the residents of Moscow gathered on the Arbat in costume, blowing bubbles, playing instruments, and performing acrobatic feats. Many of the people were carrying bouquets of Pussy Willow, the Russian replacement for palm leaves (palm trees don't grow in Moscow).

The majority of the street walkers were dressed in brightly colored costume and generally had props as well. Pets were not excluded from the festivities; in fact many animals had more extravagant costumes than their human counterparts.

Dude With Umbrella and Pug 

A popular game played by Russian youth is very similar to our "London Bridge is Falling Down," but without the song. Two long lines of people stand parallel and hold their hands like a tunnel, and then others go through the tunnel. At various points, the tunnel "collapses," and the stranded adventurers must turn around.

London Bridge Is Falling Down 

Many Muscovites had signs that read "Free Hugs," "I'm Single," and "Let's Hug!"

Free Hugs! 

We also went to a place on the Arbat entitled the Prague Restaurant. This establismment had both a bakery and a restaurant, and in the late 19th and early 20th century was considered the premier dining institution in Moscow.  We found that the bakery was still producing delicious food, and we bought several sweets to sate our hunger.

The Prague Restaurant 

 Moscow is certainly not short of interesting people and places.  Our adventure this Sunday proved that.