Why is Easter different for the Orthodox Church? — Timetables of Greek cities

While most Christians celebrated Easter Sunday last weekend on April 17, 2022, many countries that primarily observe Orthodox Christianity, such as Greece, are celebrating a bit later this year.

So when is “Greek Passover” or “Orthodox Passover,” and why is it on a different date?

Greek Easter 2022, or Orthodox Easter 2022, takes place on April 24.

The key dates for Greek Orthodox Easter in 2022 are:

  • Good Friday – April 22
  • Holy Saturday – April 23
  • Easter Sunday or Easter Day – April 24
  • Easter Monday – April 25.

Greek Easter can sometimes occur on the same day as Western Easter, as was the case in 2017.

Last year, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrated Easter early rather than in March or April.

Interestingly, Eastern Orthodox Christianity also celebrates Christmas at a later date. Next stop: Saturday, January 7, 2023. The Greek Orthodox celebrate Christmas on the same day in the Gregorian calendar, December 25.

Why does Greek Orthodox Easter have a different date?

Eastern Christianity recognizes a different date for Easter as it generally follows the Julian calendar.

This is instead of the Gregorian calendar, which is widely used by most countries today – and which Britain, for example, changed hundreds of years ago in 1752.

Julius Caesar first proposed the Julian calendar in 46 BC. The year in this calendar consisted of 365 days, with every fourth year having 366 days. Sound familiar?

This was later revised by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, and this edition eventually became the Gregorian calendar.

Many countries in the Balkans, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union – including Serbia, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, North Macedonia and Montenegro – are also observing the Julian calendar and celebrate Easter later.

How do people celebrate Orthodox Easter?

Spit-roasted lamb (or ‘souvla’) is cooked for lunch for Greeks at Easter on Sundays as part of breaking the 40-day fast.

According to the Apostle John, Jesus is the lamb of God, so eating lamb on this day honors his sacrificial death.

Additionally, many Greeks dye their eggs red to represent the blood from Christ’s tomb. Sometimes these are baked into a sweet bread called ‘Tsoureki’.

Church is obviously an important part of the celebrations and many Greeks attend services, starting on Good Friday.

Friday services are darker as church bells ring and flags fly at half mast to represent the passing of Christ.

Unlike Western Christianity, the “Holy Saturday” service is arguably the most important.

This takes place around midnight and is followed by joyful church bells, fireworks and crackers to mark the resurrection of Christ. Many buy candles to take home or carry the flame in lanterns.

The festivities begin here and many Greeks break their 40-day fast with a traditional soup, Magiritsa, made with lamb, rice and dill before the main feast begins on Sunday.

Photos: Stamatis Katapodis

Jerry B. Hatch