The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are celebrated on the Sunday after Jewish Passover.

The Cyrillic letters Х В stand for Church Slavonic Христосъ Въскресе, ‘Christ has risen’.

This is the Christian “holiday of all holidays,” and the celebration of one of the central dogmas of Christianity, the resurrection of Christ three days after his death. This holiday is therefore the most important holiday for Orthodox Christian believers. The celebration begins at midnight with the first Easter mass.

The exact date is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. Easter can fall between 22 March and 25 April, according to the Gregorian calendar. Orthodox churches celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar, including the Bulgarian church, which has adopted the Gregorian calendar for Christmas.

Most often, the dates of Easter according to the Julian and the Gregorian calendar do not coincide. The dates coincided this year, when more than two billion people all over the world celebrated Easter on 4 April. The last time the Easter dates coincided was in 2001, and the dates will coincide in 2011 as well.

As in many other areas of eastern and south-eastern Europe, Easter customs are often pagan in their origin. The most widespread Easter tradition is decorating and giving away eggs. The egg is considered a symbol of birth, a renewal of nature and life.

This custom has possible roots in many different pre-Christian traditions. Christians most often color the eggs red, with the color symbolizing Christ´s death on the cross. One legend tells us how Mary Magdalene travelled to Rome to preach, and on that occasion visited the emperor Tiberius. She gave him a red egg and greeted him with words: “Christ has risen”.

Different customs

Kozunak, Bulgarian sweet Easter bread.

In Bulgaria, it is a custom for the oldest woman of a family to use the first red-painted egg to rub the faces of children, for health and strength. Bread ingredients are put in windows on Saturday and used for making bread on Sunday.

In Serbia, people believe it is not good to fall asleep before midnight on Easter eve, or else one will sleep and be lazy during the whole summer. In villages in the south of Serbia, people jump over an axe placed in a doorway, followed by the pronunciation of wishes for health and progress. The first colored egg is kept and saved throughout the following year, and called Čuvarkuća (housekeeper). This egg is believed to protect the house.

In Poland, the end of Lent is marked by receiving a blessing during a morning church service, followed by emptying a basket full of food right there in the church. In some parts of the country, people spray each other with water on Monday.

This is also a custom for youth in Czechia, Hungary and the Vojvodina district of Serbia, and in recent years perfumes are used as well as water. In some cases, this custom turns into chaos where teenagers pour water all around, drenching passers-by in the streets. This year Polish police announced very strict punishments for such behavior

According to traditional beliefs in Poland, Czechia and Slovakia, women and girls should be whipped and have cold water poured on them during the last days of the Easter holiday. Whips made from fresh young branches are used.

Women can be either thrown into rivers and streams, or have cold water poured on them. “Refreshed” in such way by the force of the awakening nature, these women give decorated eggs as presents to their “persecutors”.


Published Aug. 24, 2010 3:02 PM