What Is Eastern Orthodox Easter?

Learn about the customs, greetings, and foods

Orthodox Easter Foods
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Easter season is the most significant and sacred time of the Orthodox Church calendar. Orthodox Easter consists of a series of celebrations or movable feasts commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Date of Eastern Orthodox Easter

In 2019, Orthodox Easter falls on Sunday, April 28, 2019.The date of Easter changes every year, and Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Easter on a different day than Western churches.

Observances of Eastern Orthodox Easter

In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the spiritual preparations begin with Great Lent, 40 days of self-examination and fasting (including Sundays), which starts on Clean Monday and culminates on Lazarus Saturday.

Clean Monday falls seven weeks before Easter Sunday. The term "Clean Monday" refers to cleansing from sinful attitudes through the Lenten fast. Lazarus Saturday occurs eight days before Easter Sunday and signifies the end of Great Lent.

Next comes Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, commemorating the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, followed by Holy Week, which ends on Easter Sunday, or Pascha.

Fasting continues throughout Holy Week. Many Orthodox churches observe a Paschal Vigil which ends just before midnight on Holy Saturday (or Great Saturday), the last day of Holy Week on the evening before Easter. Immediately following the vigil, Easter festivities begin with Paschal Matins, Paschal Hours, and the Paschal Divine Liturgy.

Paschal Matins is an early morning prayer service or part of an all-night prayer vigil. Paschal Hours is a brief, chanted prayer service, reflecting the joy of Easter. And Paschal Divine Liturgy is a communion or Eucharist service. These are the first celebrations of Christ's resurrection and are considered the most important services of the ecclesiastical year.

After the Eucharist service, the fast is broken, and the feasting begins.

Orthodox Easter Traditions and Greetings

It is customary among Orthodox Christians to greet one another during the Easter season with the Paschal greeting. The salutation begins with the phrase, "Christ ​is Risen!" The response is "Truly; He is Risen!" The phrase "Christos Anesti" (Greek for "Christ is Risen") is also the title of a traditional Orthodox Easter hymn sung during Easter services in celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

In the Orthodox tradition, eggs are a symbol of new life. Early Christians used eggs to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the regeneration of believers. At Easter, eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross for the redemption of all men.

Eastern Orthodox Easter Foods

Greek Orthodox Christians traditionally break the Lenten fast after the midnight Resurrection Service. Customary foods are a lamb and Tsoureki Paschalino, a sweet Easter dessert bread.

Serbian Orthodox families traditionally begin the feasting after Easter Sunday services. They enjoy appetizers of smoked meats and cheeses, boiled eggs and red wine. The meal consists of chicken noodle or lamb vegetable soup followed by spit-roasted lamb.

Holy Saturday is a day of strict fasting for Russian Orthodox Christians, while families stay busy making preparations for the Easter meal. Usually, the Lenten fast is broken after the midnight mass with traditional Paskha Easter bread cake.