This past Sunday, most Christian denominations celebrated Easter, the commemoration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Protestant and Roman Catholics, who makeup the majority of Christians worldwide, follow the Gregorian calendar method. Growing up, Greek Orthodox Easter diferrences meant bemused looks from my peers who didn’t understand why my Easter celebrations often did not align with theirs. “Why is your Easter different?” “Do you believe in Jesus still?” “Do you have Easter egg hunts?” “What does Orthodox mean?” As a young adult, the questions still arise, but less out of confusion, and more out of curiosity.
Eastern Orthodox Church
We did not adopt the Gregorian calendar like Catholics and Protestants. Instead, we follow the Julian calendar, a solar calendar adopted by Julius Caesar in 45 BC, and the reason why Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter later than other Christian denominations. The determination dates back to the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 when the decision was made for Easter to fall on the first Sunday after the “Pascal Full Moon” (the first full moon of spring following the spring equinox), and always after Passover.
Slightly before midnight, on Sunday, April 12, Orthodox churches will dim to darkness, and parishioners witness what is known as the Miracle of Holy Light. Orthodox tradition maintains that the Holy Fire, which originally occurs at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, emanates within the tomb of Jesus Christ. Candles throughout the church spontaneously become lit and the flame is passed to the clergy and parishioners. The Holy Fire is then brought to particular Orthodox countries, including Greece and Armenia, by special flights.
Following the services, Orthodox Christians will rejoice in Zoi, or life, celebrating Anastasis (the Resurrection). It is tradition for Greek Orthodox families to play a game called “tsougrisma,” which involves two individuals and two red eggs. The initiator taps one end of his egg against the end of the other player’s, saying “Xristos Anesti,” or Christ has risen! The other individual says “Alithos Anesti,” or truly He has risen! The goal of the game is to crack the opponent’s egg, but really, it is to revere the Anastasi. Easter Sunday is the most significant holiday for Orthodox Christians, and the accompanying traditions strengthen our faith and fulfill our spiritual connection.