Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate the most important church fete, the Resurrection Sunday – Easter on April 19.
Date of Easter
Every year the date of the celebration changes. It is calculated on a lunisolar calendar with the help of the special table – the Alexandrian computes.
The holiday is celebrated on Sunday, after the vernal equinox. Besides, it cannot be celebrated earlier than Jewish holiday Pesach because according to the scripture, Jesus was crucified after it.
The range of the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus in different years varies from April 4 up to May 8. The other moveable religious holidays depend on the date of Easter.
The Orthodox Christians and Catholics celebrate Easter on different days as these churches hold chronology on different calendars. In 2020, Catholics celebrated Easter on April 12.
History of holiday
Old Testament Easter became the prototype of Christian Easter. It was celebrated in remembrance of the exodus of the Israelites from 400-year Egyptian slavery.
The holiday was named Pesakh and became the symbol of the fact that the Angel of Death passed the homes of Jews, exterminating first-born children in Egypt.
In the New Testament, the name of the holiday acquired new interpretation – release from slavery to sin by death and resurrection of Jesus. The Son of God sacrificed himself and replaced the Old Testament Easter lamb.
According to legend, after the death of Jesus Christ, his body was transferred to the cave and the entrance to it was blocked by a huge stone.
In a day, the women came to the site with myrrh but found out that the cave is empty. They found only the shroud in which Jesus was wrapped after the crucifixion.
The angel who appeared at the cave stated that Jesus arose from the dead.
Symbols of Easter
Easter egg is one of the most ancient symbols of fertility and rebirth as well as the resurrection of Jesus.
According to legend, the first Easter egg was gifted by Mary Magdalene to Rome emperor Tiberius.
She came to the palace to bring good news but the emperor did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus and said tat it is akin if a white egg will accidentally turn into a red one. After his words, the egg became red symbolizing the blood of Jesus spilling on the cross.
Thus, Easter tradition to pain eggs appeared. It is used to call them krashanky. Such an egg is a talisman and protective amulet of family.
Lamb of God is the symbol of the great sacrifice of Jesus for humanity. In western Europe it often depicted on the Easter postcards: lamb, cross and sign in Latin – Agnus Dei. In Ukraine, people bake a tiny figure of lamb from the dough and decorate the holiday table with it.
Kulich (Easter cake) along with eggs are the most important symbols of the holiday. It is believed that artos, the bread blessed on the first day of the holiday, is the prototype of kulich.
Kulichi mean that doors of the house, where they put on the table, are always open for Jesus.
Holy Fire symbolizes the Light of God, which enlightens all people after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
People expect it at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In case of successful occurrence, the priests take it to all churches. The Christians light their candles from it.
Easter tree symbolizes Tree of life, Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which are situated in the Garden of Eden.
In Ukraine, it is traditionally made from willow branches, which are decorated with multicolored ribbons, krashanky, pysanka and feathers of birds.
Traditions and customs
Easter Vigil. It is not accepted to sleep on the night of Easter Sunday; people should go to church service – it is the most solemn in a year.
Midnight Office is served from the evening, then the Easter Matins takes place. In church and near it priests bless everything that Christians bring in their Easter baskets.
Easter Acclamation. At the end of Matins, believers greet each other saying ‘Christ is Risen!’ and responding ‘Truly, He is Risen!’.
It is the way people greet each other the next 40 days after Easter until the Ascension of Jesus.
Easter feast. After the blessing of Easter cakes, the whole family should gather at a festive table to stick together during a year. People should break their fast with kulich or egg; however, our ancestors did it even with horseradish to prevent toothache.
Even crumbs of Easter cake, which fell on the ground, cannot be thrown away in the trash can: they should be dug in the ground (in the area rarely visited by people), burnt in the fire or thrown away to running water (not a sewer).