Greek Orthodox Easter Dates

Greece Easter fireworks

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If you arrive in Greece for your Easter holiday hoping to experience the extravagant traditions of Greek Easter, or Pascha as the Greeks call it, you might find that you've arrived too early. Unlike the western sects of Christianity like Catholicism and Protestantism, which use the universal Gregorian calendar, Orthodox sects use the Julian calendar, which is 13 days ahead. With the dates of Easter shifting every year on both sides, the holiday can sometimes occur on the same day or up to five weeks apart. Knowing when the annual holiday falls in the coming years will better help you plan for your trip to Greece, especially since some businesses and museums close for the holiday at this time of year.

It's also important to note that a few traditions and customs of Greek Orthodox Easter differ vastly from those celebrated in Western cultures. Whether you're just interested in seeing some unique Greek Easter celebrations or want to gear up for some pre-Lent Carnival festivities, you'll find that there are many new experiences to be had in Greece during this time of year.

Dates of Western and Orthodox Easter
Year Western Easter Orthodox Easter
2020 April 12 April 19
2021 April 4 May 2
2022 April 17 April 24
2023 April 9 April 16
2024 March 31 May 5
2025 April 20 April 20
2026 April 5 April 12
2027 March 28 May 2
2028 April 16 April 16
2029 April 1 April 8
2030 April 21 April 28

Western vs. Orthodox Easter

Western Easter and Greek Orthodox Easter differ in many ways, but the dates of observation are the most apparent of these variations. The main reason for this difference is that Western Easter uses the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced by Pope Gregory in 1582, to determine the date of the celebration of Christ's resurrection. In contrast, the Greek Orthodox uses the older Julian calendar, which dates back to the era of the Roman Empire.

Easter Traditions

Orthodox Easter isn't nearly as commercially saturated as the Western celebration of the holiday. Greek tradition doesn't include chocolate or involve the Easter Bunny and pastel-colored baskets and cards. Instead, you'll see lots of eggs dyed red, symbolizing new life and the blood of Christ, and roasted lamb, while children will be given white candles, which are usually decorated with colorful baubles.

Like in Catholic and other non-Orthodox faiths, the Greek Orthodox Church practices Lent during the 40 days of fasting leading up to the Holy Week. In the seven days leading up to Easter, you can expect many celebrations and traditions being carried out.

Holy Week

Much like Semana Santa in Spain, Holy Week in Greece for those who practice the Greek Orthodox faith is a time of reflection, ceremonial processions, and celebratory feasts and parties. On Holy Saturday, a special midnight liturgy is conducted. In Athens, the Holy Fire is carried from Jerusalem every year and distributed to all the churches in the city, who in turn distribute it to the attendees of Saturday's midnight mass. The mass is immediately followed by the Anastasi service, where many Greek Orthodox break their fast during the Agape Meal, a communal meal shared by the members of a church's congregation. The feast typically consists of lamb, feta cheese, and sweet bread known as tsoureki and is served until the early hours of the morning.

The following morning, Easter Sunday, a massive service is held around the noon hour with several smaller services spread throughout the afternoon and evening. However, much of the day is also spent feasting and celebrating the return of Jesus Christ with family, friends, and fellow Orthodox Greeks.

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