Orthodox Easter - symbolism and customs
Easter with its unique symbolism of the victory of life over death is one of the most important holidays in Christianity and the Serbian Orthodox Church, which celebrates the day of Christ's resurrection. It is celebrated with great joy throughout Serbia.
The date of Orthodox Easter is determined by the Julian calendar, rather than the Gregorian calendar used by most of the Western world, and usually falls between late March and early May each year. The Easter season officially begins with Great Lent, 40 days of fasting, prayer, and repentance that ends on Holy Saturday.
On the night before Easter Sunday, the Orthodox faithful gather in churches for the traditional Paschal vigil. The service begins in darkness, but as the priest announces the Resurrection of Christ, the church is filled with light as candles are lit and bells ring out. The faithful then exchange the traditional Paschal greeting of "Christ is risen!" to which the response is "Truly, He is risen!"
Easter Sunday is a joyous occasion, with families gathering for a festive meal that usually includes roasted lamb or ham, colored eggs, traditional bread, and other special treats. In some parts of Serbia, the Easter egg hunt is also a popular tradition, with children searching for brightly painted eggs hidden by the Easter Bunny.
Painting Easter eggs remains one of the most joyous Serbian customs. According to tradition, the eggs are dyed on Good Friday, while the first dyed red "guardian" egg is left aside until next Easter. It is customary for children to touch themselves with it to be healthy and ruddy throughout the year.
In addition to religious observances, Orthodox Easter is also a time for cultural events and festivities across Serbia. Traditional folk music and dance performances, as well as Easter markets and fairs, are held in many towns and cities.
Overall, Orthodox Easter is a time for reflection, renewal, and celebration for the people of Serbia, and a significant part of the country's cultural and religious heritage.