Easter in Macedonia
The Orthodox way
Easter is a moveable feast meaning it is not fixed to the civil calendar. The First Council of Nicaea, the council of Christian bishops convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine in A.D.325, established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox which ecclesiastically is reckoned to be on March 21, therefore the date of Easter varies from March 22 to April 25 . Eastern Christian, also known as Orthodox, base their calculation on the Julian calendar whose March 21 corresponds to April 3 in the Gregorian calendar, in which calendar their celebration of Easter varies between April 4 and May 8. On Sunday April 4, 2010, the Orthodox Macedonians celebrated Easter, which this year coincided with Catholic and Protestant Easter. To Orthodox Macedonians Easter is the greatest holyday of all. The Easter Lent, in Eastern Christianity also called the Great Fast, starts forty days before the Great Week (Holy Week) which is the most important part of Lent. In the early morning of Maundy Thursday eggs are dyed in red, symbolizing victory and coming happiness in the resurrection. Resurrecting, Jesus Christ actually defeated death. The red color represents god’s might and strength. The color of the Easter eggs reminds us of the blood Jesus shed on the cross. The first egg to be dyed is put aside and is called “Protector of the House” (Chuvarsko jajce). It is placed beside the family icon and save duntil the next Easter.
The actual Easter festival begins on Good Friday, the day of crucifixion, when at home only essential duties are performed and the family observes a strict vegetarian fast, even fish and oils are omitted from the menu. On Good Friday people go the church to see how the priests take down the icon of Christ off the cross, wrap it in linen (plashtenica ), and put it in a casket symbolizing the tomb of Christ which they kiss. On Saturday, the day of resurrection, one is not allowed to eat all day. Late in the evening Orthodox Macedonians gather in crowds outside their local church carrying with them unlit candles. At midnight the priest announces the resurrection of Christ declaring “Hristos voskrese”, Christ has risen, then the people reply “voistina voskrese” truly risen, and he lets the people light their candles of the Holy Flame taken from Christ’s nativity cave in Jerusalem. After resurrection the celebration continues with songs and pra -yers inside the temples all over Macedonia. The fast is over and people slowly go home for a meal, trying to keep the flame alive.
On Easter Sunday, after attending the mass at church, friends and families gather at homes celebrating Christ’s resurrection, eating lambs (Christ’s body) and red (Christ’s blood) eggs. Before the red eggs are eaten one must crack them against their neighbors, and whoever wins by having whole egg at the end will get all the luck. Until Ascension, in the forty days following Easter, Orthodox Macedonians declare their faith in resurrection and the great happiness it brings them often a often greeting each other with “Hristos voskrese”, Christ has risen, replying “voistina voskrese”, truly risen.