What is Orthodox Easter Sunday? When and why is it celebrated?

While most of the Christians follow the Gregorian calendar to refer to festivals like Good Friday and Easter, the traditional or the orthodox Christians follow the Julian calendar for its celebrations. According to the Julian calendar, the Orthodox Easter falls around or after the start of March Equinox. The Orthodox Easter Sunday in 2018 was celebrated by the Christians on the 8th of April which was a week after the regular Easter Sunday.

Orthodox Christians follow the ancient laws of Christianity. This day falls almost a week after the usual Easter and is celebrated in countries like Greece, Romania, Russia, Bulgaria and a few more.

Orthodox Easter Sunday is more private and a less commercialized holiday. The followers fast throughout the week keeping any kind of non-veg out of their diet. They spend most of their time in churches praying and seeking forgiveness.

The most famous dish of this festival is the Easter bread and the Magiritsa soup, which is made by every Orthodox household.

Though the two Easter celebrations have a difference of dates, they both celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion on Good Friday. The Orthodox churches also refer to this festival as Pasha as of the Julian calendar.

The most significant symbol of the Orthodox Easter Sunday is the lamb.

When is Orthodox Easter 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020?

The following are the dates when Orthodox Easter Sunday was celebrated and will be celebrated in the coming future:

YearOrthodox Easter
2017Sunday, April 16, 2017
2018Sunday, April 8, 2018
2019Sunday, April 28, 2019
2020Sunday, April 19, 2020

Countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and the UK do not perceive Orthodox Easter as a federal holiday.

A little background on Orthodox Easter Sunday

At roughly around the 325CE, the first Sunday after the occurring of the full moon either on or after the March Equinox was decided to be the day to celebrate Easter by the Council of Nicaea. Also, if the full moon was to fall on a Sunday, Easter was to be celebrated the next week.

The council of Nicaea made changes to the former Julian calendar by fixing a particular time for the celebration of Easter for all the churches via the Gregorian calendar, and while many churches in the west follow these changes, there are plenty of

Orthodox churches which still support the old Julian calendar. Hence, the dates of the two Easter hardly ever collide, and there remains the conflict of which date is to be followed between the two.

Easter in an Orthodox church is called Pascha. An orthodox church does not celebrate Ash Wednesday instead have a ritual called the Forgiveness Sunday.

Why is Easter celebrated?

Even though the dates of the western churches and Orthodox churches may face conflict, the purpose of celebrating Easter remains common. Easter Sunday is to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ two days after his crucifixion on Good Friday.

According to the Bible, after Jesus Christ was crucified on Good Friday, his body was taken by his disciples after they requested Pilate for permission to put Jesus’s body to rest.

They cleaned his wounds, covered his body in linen and spices to keep his body fresh and placed him in a tomb. On the third day, Mary Magdalene and few other women followers of Jesus approached his tomb; they noticed that the stone to the entrance had been moved.

As they rushed inside, they found that the body of Jesus was missing. As tension and tears filled the place, two angels appeared unto them and said “He is not here! He has risen just as he said.”

The women rushed and told all the disciples what they had seen and heard. No one believed them until they saw for themselves that the tomb was empty. Later on the same day, Jesus appeared in the room filled with his disciples.

At first, they were scared, but then Jesus came forward saying, “Look at my hands and feet, it is me. Touch my hands where the nails went in. A ghost doesn’t have a body!” As everyone saw his wounds they all believed him and rejoiced that their Lord had risen from the dead.

Symbols used during the Orthodox Easter Sunday

  1. Red-dyed Eggs – Red-dyed eggs are on the Orthodox Easter Sunday as a tradition that symbolizes Jesus’ blood. They are dyed on Thursday and are said to have been done since Virgin Mary herself dyed the eggs red to mark Christ’s resurrection
  2. Lamb – Lamb is one of the most famous symbols of Orthodox Easter. The symbol is that of a lamb bearing a cross and is called ‘Angus Dei’ which means ‘Lamb of God’. The sacrifice of lamb on Easter is to celebrate Christ sacrificing his life for man and rising as promised

Countries that celebrate Orthodox Easter Sunday

  • Lebanon
  • Greece
  • Cyprus
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Ukraine
  • Republic of Macedonia
  • Bulgaria

Traditions followed on Orthodox Easter Sunday

  1. The Orthodox Christians become strictly Vega during the Lent time
  2. The services and mass of the churches are very long during the Holy week
  3. The families have a feast prepared to celebrate Christ’s resurrection
  4. The Thursday before Easter Sunday is a day to prepare the Easter bread and eggs are dyed red as a symbol of Jesus’ blood
  5. Lamb is the star of the feast on Orthodox Easter Sunday
  6. The traditional food of Orthodox Easter is the Magiritsa soup
  7. The families also play a game where they tie up the red eggs together and must crack each other’s eggs. The person whose egg lasts the longest will be showered with good luck
  8. During the resurrection service at midnight candles are lit and passed on from person to person, and the whole church is candlelit