Modern people celebrate Easter not thinking much about the meaning of this holiday. Someone dyes eggs and bake cakes just keeping the family traditions, others go to church to consecrate cakes, bought in a supermarket. People gather at the table, eat and drink, but often forget about the point of this holiday. ForUm decided to remind its readers why we celebrate Easter and how other nations celebrate this holiday.

Where does Easter originate from?

Christian celebration, now known as Easter, earlier was called Pascha, derived, through Aramaic, from the Hebrew term Pesach, known in English as Passover. The Jewish festival of Passover commemorates the story of the Exodus, occurred in Egypt in XIII century BC.  At that time the Jewish people for centuries were in slavery of the Egyptians in a very unenviable position. Pharaohs condemned Israel for hard labor in the quarries, construction of the pyramids and cities, and one of the Egyptian rulers issued a severe edict: kill all the male babies being born in Jewish families to exhaust the seed of Abraham. Until that day, God had sent various punishments upon Egypt - epidemics, natural disasters, pest infestations, but Pharaoh was not afraid of that. However, when the angel went across all the cities of Egypt and killed all the Egyptian firstborn babies, bypassing Jewish ones, Pharaoh in horror let all Israelis go that night.

Since then, the Jews celebrated seven days a year the Old Testament Passover as the feast of release of the chosen people from slavery in Egypt. Even then, it was understood as a type of liberation from the death of all the mankind, since it was believed that the Messiah would be born among the sons of Israel and would save all people of the world from suffering.

That is what happened with the birth of Jesus Christ, who underwent suffering, died on the cross and rose from the dead again in the days of Passover.

Therefore, the Passover of the New Testament has already a new meaning - the belief that our life does not ends after death, but leads to eternal life and union with God.

Why do dates of the holiday disagree?

Christians of Jewish origin were the first to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Since the date of the resurrection was close the timing of Passover, they likely celebrated the resurrection as a new facet of the Passover festival.

Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts, in that they do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars (both of which follow the cycle of the sun and the seasons). Instead, the date for Easter is determined on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the March equinox.

In Western Christianity, using the Gregorian calendar, Easter always falls on a Sunday between 22 March and 25 April inclusive, within about seven days after the astronomical full moon. The following day, Easter Monday, is a legal holiday in many countries with predominantly Christian traditions.

Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar. Because of the 13-day difference between the calendars between 1900 and 2099, 21 March corresponds, during the 21st century, to 3 April in the Gregorian Calendar. Easter therefore varies between 4 April and 8 May on the Gregorian calendar.

Easter traditions from around the world
The bright red colored egg is the symbol of Easter for the Orthodox Christians all over the world. In Bulgaria the Easter eggs are decorated on Thursday before Easter or at Saturday before Easter. The eldest woman in the house has the privilege of dying the eggs. Then she bless the children in the house with an egg to keep away diseases.

Widespread tradition is to fight with eggs by pair and one's egg become last surviving is called borak (fighter). Bulgarians  traditionally eat roasted lamb (image of Jesus as the sacrificial lamb), lettuce with cucumbers salad and kozunak.

On Holy Saturday, the Eternal Flame is brought to Greece by military jet, and is distributed to waiting Priests who carry it to their local churches. The event is always televised and if there's a threat of bad weather or a delay, the entire country agonizes until the flame arrives safely.

The midnight Service of the Resurrection is an occasion attended by everyone who is able, including children, each holding a white candle. Crowds are so big that churches fill to overflowing as anticipation mounts. Shortly before midnight, all lights are extinguished and churches are lit only by the Eternal Flame on the altar. When the clock passes midnight, the Priest calls out "Christos Anesti" (Christ is risen), and passes the flame, the light of the Resurrection, to those nearest him. The flame is then passed from person to person, and it isn't long before the church and courtyard are filled with flickering candlelight. The night air is filled with the singing of the Byzantine Chant "Christos Anesti," and the "fili tis Agapis" (kiss of Agape) and wishes are exchanged.

Once home, everyone gathers around the table for a traditional meal to break the fast, which includes the mayiritsa soup (made of leftover parts of a slaughtered lamb or goat ), tsoureki (sweet bread), and the red eggs.  At dawn (or earlier) on Easter Sunday, the spits are set to work, and grills are fired up. The customary main attraction of the day is whole roasted lamb or goat (kid) to represent the Lamb of God, however many prefer oven and stovetop lamb or kid dishes. Ovens are filled with traditional accompaniments and all the trimmings. Great Greek wines, ouzo, and other drinks flow freely, and preparations for the meal turn into festive celebrations even before the eating begins. These high-spirited gatherings often last long into the night.

In Romania, there is a tradition of baking Easter cake “babele” – “grandmother”, a sweet dish of pasta, which is poured into special molds. In some parts of the country, there is a dish of the "opposite sex", called “grandfather”. It should have sour or salty taste. This dish is traditionally consecrated in the church.

Romanians decorate Easter bread with a braided cross and spread cream cheese in spaces between the braids of cross. The topping is often made of colored millet, in some areas – of poppy seeds. In many regions, women add walnut and nutmeg, rum, oranges or lemons, raisins to the Easter cake. To make Easter cake of a brighter yellow, pumpkin is finely grated. In addition to traditional products, Romanians consecrate in church salt, sugar, fat, money, and even garlic in some regions.
On Easter day many citizens of Canada go to Vegreville, to the giant sculpture of pysanka, a Ukrainian style Easter egg. It measures 25.7 feet long, 18.3 feet wide, and stands 31.6 feet high. The Pysanka rests on a 27,000-pound base of concrete and steel and turns in the wind like a weathervane.

One of the major Easter festivities in Canada, known as the Winter Carnival, is held in the Quebec City. Winter Carnival is a big parade of special sporting events such as skating, skiing, and tobogganing.

Eggs are forbidden during Lent but after fasting they are consumed mixed with maple syrup. Also special Easter passion plays and songs are performed at the major theatres and community halls of the major cities of Canada.

A typical Canadian Easter is characterized by its mouthwatering and sumptuous recipes of ‘Maple Baked Beans’, ‘Potatoes Nicoise’, ‘Cape Breton Scones’ and apple tart. Thus, Easter in Canada is an event worth enjoying for its wide festive activities.

In Japan, after the Easter service, the believers (Christian community) receive dyed eggs and small buns. Christian Japanese do not organize sumptuous feast, but celebrate Easter with the family or local perish. The traditional Easter greetings say "Harisutosu fukkatsu! Jitsu ni fukkatsu!'

In China, a tea party with the consecrated baking is organized for parishioners. The main solemn service is held in Beijing, in the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is located on the territory of the Russian Consulate. Divine Liturgy is also celebrated in Shanghai, where there is a large Orthodox community. At the entrance to the temple, the Chinese citizens should show a passport: there are pre-compiled lists of those, who can attend the Easter service. In addition, on Easter Sunday, amateur theatrical performances and concerts are usually held. The priests give classes for children in the Sunday school, at which they tell about the life of Jesus Christ and teach the basics of Orthodoxy.

In Czech Republic and Slovakia there is an Easter Monday tradition in which men spank women with handmade whips made of willow and decorated with ribbons. According to legend, the willow is the first tree to bloom in the spring, so the branches are supposed to transfer the tree’s vitality and fertility to the women. This playful spanking is all in good fun and isn’t meant to cause pain.

“Sprinkling,” a popular Hungarian Easter tradition, is observed on Easter Monday, which is also known as “Ducking Monday.” Boys playfully sprinkle perfume or perfumed water on girls. Young men used to pour buckets of water over young women's heads, but now they spray perfume, cologne or just plain water, and ask for a kiss.

Wherever you go on Easter holidays, ForUm wishes you to celebrate it with your dears and in good mood. Christ is risen!

Anastasia Pika


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