Russian Easter Postcards of the Early 20th Century
«In the evening, in crowded churches, pussy willows are blessed… How much poetry is in this touching branch with white-gray catkins, next to a burning wax candle <…>.
A willow lives, it conceals a special power of life: put it in a jar with water, you will make it bloom, and fresh green petals will blossom quickly on it. A willow is a symbol of life in the grave, and a symbol of joy with which people welcomed Jesus in Jerusalem after the resurrection of Lazarus, at the same time, it is a symbol of grief, and its catkins are so similar to the frozen tears…»
E. Poselyanin. «Willow Saturday» («Dusha pered bogom (Soul before God)»)
Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter, which celebrates Christ's glorious entry into Jerusalem in the days before his execution. The people greeted him as a winner of hell and death by waving palm branches. In Russia, palms are not available in cold climates, and the first trees that bloom in the early spring is pussy willows. That is why, the feast is called Willow Sunday by the Russian Orthodox Church, and at Willow Sunday services, people hold cmall bundles of pussy willows instead of palm fronds.
Though branches of willow are associated with a certain feast, cards with their images are used for Easter greetings. This is proved by publications of the Kiev typolithography «Progress» – «Happy Easter» and «Christ is risen!». By outward appearance of postcards issued in 1917, one can judge about the difficult economic situation in the country: modest designs, pale and battered print, low-quality paper.
«Ahead, where is the willows, the candles are lit up.<…> The lights streamed through the church, and that's - everybody have willows. <…> Clear faces glow through the willows, all the lights, the lights behind the branches, and lights in the sight are flashing, shining both on the foreheads, and on the cheeks, and in the windows, and in images on garments. On the walls and above, under the dome, dark shade of willows go».
I. Shmelyov. «Leto Gospodne [The Summer of the Lord]»