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Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easter and Pascha 2021


As part of the ongoing updates on religious observance, I would like to share the upcoming traditions of Holy or Great Week and Easter or Pascha.

Holy (or Great) Week is the Christian set of holidays that commemorate the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ, beginning with Palm Sunday, running through  Jesus’ crucifixion and concluding with Holy Saturday. Holy Week is then followed by Easter.  Christians believe that Easter commemorates the date of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As a result, most Christians consider Easter to be the holiest day of the year. 

Please note that while this piece was first posted in 2012, the dates have been updated for 2021 here.


Easter and Pascha are what is known as moveable feasts. Moveable feasts vary in the calendar according to a fairly complex set of calculations tied to the first Sunday following the first full moon following the vernal equinox.

In the Western traditions, these dates are figured on the Gregorian calendar (that used in most of the secular world). In the Coptic and Orthodox traditions, these dates are figured on the Julian calendar. As a result, the dates for Easter in the Western tradition usually comes four to five days earlier than the equivalent date for Pascha in the Eastern traditions.

For 2021, for Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity Easter is Sunday April 4, the culmination of Holy Week, which began with Palm Sunday the preceding week.

For 2021, for Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Coptic and Ethiopian Tewahedo Christians, April 25 is Palm Sunday, and thus the beginning Great Week (the preferred name for most Eastern Orthodox traditions) culminating with Easter Sunday (Pascha in Eastern Orthodox and Coptic traditions; Fassika in Ethiopian tradition) on May 2 -- a full month later than in the Western tradition.

Holy Week / Great Week

Palm Sunday
Entry of Christ
into Jerusalem
by Maximino Cereso

The first day of Holy Week is known as Palm Sunday to Protestants (and unofficially to Roman Catholics), as Passion Sunday to Roman Catholics (at least officially so since a formal name change in 1970), and as the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem in many (though not all) Eastern Orthodox traditions.  

Regardless of name, the holiday celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem described in all four Gospels.  

In three of the four, the crowds cut branches to herald Jesus’ entry. For example, Luke 12: 13 reads


They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Blessed is the King of Israel!" 
Many Christian traditions burn the fronds afterwards for use on Ash Wednesday of the following year. From this comes the tradition of processions with branches of some sort.

Palm Sunday Procession
Mount of Olives
Among most Roman Catholics, the processions are with palm fronds, although among Italian Catholics, many use olive branches and Polish Catholics traditionally use willow branches. Likewise, among the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox, worshipers use willow branches instead of palms.  Among Ethiopian Orthodox, it is customary to wear headbands and rings made of palms and decorated with crosses. Among the various Arab Orthodox traditions, it is customary to hold candles decorated with flowers as well as palm branches. Greek Orthodox customarily carry crosses either made from or decorated with palm or bay leaves. Some national customs have developed around the day.  In Wales and parts of England, it is customary to eat figs or fig. Among Greeks, it is customary to eat fish. In Lebanon, Christians celebrate with the shanineh, a procession in the church in which children carry candles decorated with flowers and ribbons while sitting on their parents’ shoulders and being marched around the church.    In Italy, Palm Sunday is the traditional day for making up with those with whom one has quarreled during the year. 

Holy Thursday

The Thursday of Holy Week is known as Holy Thursday among Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics and most Protestant denominations.  It is known as Maundy Thursday among Anglican Protestants. Some Protestant churches (especially those of Scandinavian origin) use the term Sheer Thursday interchangeably with Holy Thursday.  Regardless of name, the holiday commemorates Jesus’ Last Supper, the celebration of the Passover Seder with the disciples. 
Eastern Orthodox Red Pascha Eggs

Many Orthodox traditions take place on Holy Thursday.  Among most Orthodox, Holy Thursday is the day when traditional Pascha loaves (the type varies by nationality) are baked and eggs are dyed.  Among Eastern Orthodox Christians, eggs are dyed red (representing the blood of Christ). In Greek Orthodox tradition, the first dyed egg is placed in front of the home’s iconstasis (the spot where the family icons stand).

Among Germans – both Catholic and Lutheran – eggs are also dyed on Holy Thursday, although there the color is traditionally green.

Among both Greek and Russian Orthodox, candles are lit during a portion of the church service  – often called the “Thursday Fire”; these candles are then used to light the family’s lampada (an oil lamp) either at the church itself (among Russian Orthodox) or in the family home (among Greek Orthodox). 

Armenian Orthodox footwashing
Among Armenian Orthodox, believers wash each others feet in recognition of this act of humility performed by Jesus at the Last Supper. Some Protestant sects also perform this ritual.

Among Filipino Catholics, it is customary to visit several churches as a way of keeping vigil as the disciples did when Jesus prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane.   The French practice the custom of the “flying bells” in which the church bells are prohibited from ringing until Easter, while children are told that the bells have flown away carrying away all the grief people feel.

Good Friday / Great Friday

The Friday of Holy Week is called Good Friday among Roman Catholics and Protestants and as Passion, Holy or Great Friday among Eastern Orthodox. Regardless of name, the date marks the Crucifixion of Jesus on on Golgotha (or Calvary) Hill in Jerusalem

This date is a very somber holiday for all Christians.  In many Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions, the cross is covered or various ornaments are removed from the church. Among many Lutherans, after Good Friday services, the congregants leave the church and seal the doors (symbolic of the entombment of Christ). 

Among Eastern Orthodox and some Roman Catholics, Good Friday is either a fast day or a partial fast day.  This often varies by nationality.  For example, among Catholics in Ireland (and thus many of Irish descent outside of Ireland), it is customary to fast except for three bites of bread and three sips of water (representing the Trinity). Traditionally Coptic Christians fast both Friday and Saturday. 

Bermuda kite
Bermuda is known for its annual kite-flying tradition. The famous Bermuda kites are flown only one day a year: on Good Friday. The hexagonal Bermuda kites vary are usually feature colorful geometric patterns. Some of the kites makes buzzing noises. Others are so huge that they may take more than one person to get them aloft. All of them are made with strings going around flat sticks nailed at the center that form the spokes of a wheel, and all contain very long tails. The kite-flying are symbolic of the ascension to heaven.

Other Good Friday national customs include setting a bonfire and burning straw effigies Judas in Portugal and covering mirrors as a sign of mourning in Poland. In many Roman Catholic countries – notably in Latin America and the Philippines, Good Friday processions centered on carrying a life-size cross are paraded through the main street or central square.

Holy Saturday / Great Sabbath

The Saturday before Easter/Pascha is called Holy Saturday by Roman Catholics and most Protestants, Easter Even by Anglicans, and the Great Sabbath or Great Saturday among the Copts and Eastern Orthodox. Regardless of the name, the holiday represents the day between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Among Roman Catholics and most Protestants, this is the day in which Christ died or rested in the tomb. For Copts and some Eastern Orthodox, it is a fast day.

Traditionally Roman Catholics abstained from meat but this tradition was stopped by the Pope in 1970. Among Roman Catholics and Anglicans, Holy Saturday is the only day in the year in which Mass is not celebrated.

While variations exist as to the nature of what Christ did during this time, most Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, Roman Catholic and Mormon traditions attribute some form of Christ’s “harrowing of Hell” in which Jesus descended among the dead. 

Among Polish Catholics and several Slavic Orthodox groups, baskets of food including a butter lamb are brought to the church for a special blessing.  This service is called Święconka or "the Blessing of the Baskets."

In Orthodox tradition, the church vestments are changed from black to white, symbolizing the saving of those captive in Hell; among Greek Orthodox, flower petals and laurel leaves are traditionally spread around the church to symbolize the broken shards of the gates of Hell.  In Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran tradition, a holy vigil is held at night as Easter approaches.

Easter / Pascha

Easter or Pascha is the most important day of the Christian year.  This is the celebration in all traditions of the resurrection of Christ. In all Christian faiths, special services are held. Among Roman Catholics, the lighting of a Paschal candle is part of the service, representing the risen Christ. In Eastern Orthodox tradition, many candles are lit for the same purpose.

Opposition to National and Secular Practices

The national customs associated with Easter or Pascha are numerous.  It should be noted, though, that several fundamentalist Protestants sects such as (among others) adherents of the United Church of God International, Reform Adventism, and Jehovah’s Witness oppose national or secular practices on Easter for what they believe to be its pagan origins. This was also the official position of the Church of Scotland until the beginning of the 20th century.

Some Protestant sects object to
the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs
For example, throughout the United States, Canada and England, people participate traditionally in easter egg hunts and refer to eggs brought by the Easter Bunny. These Protestant groups particularly object to the fertility symbols used in many North American and British celebrations – such as the Easter Bunny which they assert goes back to the pagan Ostara holiday with its worship of Eostre from which Easter derives its name in most Germanic language countries, including English. 

Indeed, the etymology of the word "Easter" in English deriving from the pagan holiday Ostara has led some Protestant groups to call the holiday "Resurrection Day" in place of Easter.

They also object to the easter egg (or egg-shaped substitutions such as jelly beans) as having derived from the Persian worship of the fertility goddess Ishtar or other pre-Christian Persian traditions such as Zorastrianism's Naw-Rúz.

For more on Ostara, please see my earlier blog post at


For more on Naw-Rúz, please see my earlier blog post at


It should be noted that those groups opposed to national and secular practices nonetheless believe in the holiday's religiously Christian subject matter, such as the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.  Their objections are only to what they believe to be national or secular practices.

National and Secular Traditions 

For a great many Christians, Easter’s various national and secular traditions are well-loved and honored.

The Easter Egg

White House Easter egg hunt
In the United States, England, Wales and Canada, many secular traditions are widely practiced. Some of these have spread to other countries as well.  These practices include the coming of an Easter Bunny who hides or lays Easter eggs that children then collect in an Easter egg hunt.  Even the United States President has an official Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn.

The giving of Easter baskets with small toys and candy (notably jelly beans, chocolate eggs and bunnies, and marshmallow chicks called Peeps) to children is traditional.  Sometimes, the baskets are hidden from the children who then must search to find them.

Children meeting the Easter Bunny
Howell, Michigan Nature Center
At restaurants, children can have Easter breakfast with the Easter Bunny (a person dressed in a bunny outfit).  Children may also visit the Easter Bunny at shopping malls, museums and parks.

Many cities have official Easter parades. Some of the best-known annual Easter Parades in London, New York, Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Louisville, New Orleans, and Toronto.

Outside of North America, one widely practiced custom is the playing of some variation of the “egg-knocking” game.  People crack their Easter eggs against other people’s Easter eggs and the person and the last person with an unbroken egg is supposed to have a year of good luck. Variations of this practice are common in Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia, the Netherlands and Norway.

National Easter-Related Customs Around the World


Australians celebrate Easter with the Easter Bilby (a long-eared native bandicoot) instead of a rabbit.

In part, this is because the bilby is a local animal, but in part this is because Australians are less fond of rabbits than many other nationalities are. Australia has been plagued by rabbits which have destroyed crops and endangered native wildlife. 


Easter in England traditionally features Morris Dances. The first record of Morris Dances dates to 1448. That said, some have argued that similar dances actually predate Christianity and derive from pagan springtime dance rituals to frighten away the spirits of winter.

Hot-Cross Buns
Easter is also marked by the eating of hot-cross buns. These are buns made of sweetened bread with an icing-filled cross cut over their top. The hot-cross buns also predate Christianity, with the cross formerly dividing the bun into the four quadrants of the moon, but repurposed to represent the crucifixion. A recipe for hot-cross buns can be found at


In France, Christians hug and kiss as the church bells are rung. This has particular significance as the church bells are prohibited from ringing from Good Friday through Easter. The bells (which children are told “flew away” to see the Pope on Holy Thursday) return with chocolate Easter eggs.


Pascha Candlelight Procession
Corfu, Greece
Many Greeks welcome Easter in the early hours after midnight by having candles lit by the priest and then joining in a candlelight procession.  The church bells are rung during the procession, and often there are fireworks during or after the procession.

On Easter Day itself, many Greeks traditionally hold an outdoor banquet to celebrate the holiday, with the main dish being some form of barbecued lamb.  It is also customary to eat Christopsomon, a special bread loaf decorated with a cross and red eggs.


Ethiopians celebrate Fassika (their name for Easter) by dressing in special white clothing called yabesha libs. A huge, round sourdough bread made with flour, spices, oil and sugar called difo dabo is eaten on Fassika. Difo dabo is blessed by a priest and then handed out by the heads of the households to everyone visiting their homes. This is also often served with home-brewed tella (a dark barley beer) and tej a honey mead made with gesho (a local wooly hop-like plant). Since tella and tej take a week to brew, they are often left brewing in the home for all of Great Week.
Ethiopian difo dabo Easter bread


Pilgrims Walk the Via Dolorosa
in Jerusalem at Easter
Israeli Christians and Christian tourists to the Holy Land crowd Jerusalem to walk the Via Dolorosa (or "Way of Suffering"). This is the path believed to be the route Christ followed on his way to be crucified.

The pilgrims stop at each of the nine exterior Stations of the Cross, beginning at the Lion's Gate (also called St. Stephen's Gate) and ending at Golgotha (Calvary) Hill.

There are 14 Stations of the Cross altogether but the last five are all within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.


Many Eastern Orthodox Palestinian Christians celebrate the day before Easter with a "Saturday of Fire" marking the belief that fire emanated from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (in contested East Jerusalem). Orthodox priests emerge from the Orthodox chamber in the tomb with a flame from a holy fire there. Believer then use that flame to light other torches which are then used to lead processions back to their hometowns in Palestine for Easter.


Throughout Italy, as in France, people hug and kiss at the ringing of the church bells. Beyond that, dozens of local traditions highlight this or that city or town's Easter practices.  A few examples illustrate some of this.

Corse Rusticane, Merano, Italy
In Merano in Alto Adige/Südtirol each year on Easter Monday, the Corse Rusticane horse race takes place at the Maia Racecourse. This race is only among Haflinger horses (the local breed) and the riders wear the traditional outfits of the local towns and villages. Leading up to the race is a great parade of the Haflinger racehorses and of people dressed in traditional outfits.

Explosion of the Scoppio del Carro
Florence, Italy
In Florence in Tuscany, people take part in the annual Scoppio del Carro (cart explosion), in which a massive two-story high cart is filled with fireworks and dragged by oxen through the city center. The Archbishop lights a dove-shaped rocket-firework which travels down a connecting wire to the cart. The tradition, begun in 1679, holds that the bigger the explosion, the better will be the coming harvest.

In another tradition in Tredozio in Emilia-Romagna, the town's four sections hold the annual Palio dell'Uovo or race of the eggs.

These are just three of many such local traditions in Italy.

The Netherlands

Traditionally, villages in the Eastern portions of the Netherlands hold communal bonfires as part of Easter festivities. Each town competes with the others nearby to build the largest bonfire.

Dutch Paasbrood
Throughout the Netherlands regardless of region, people look forward to eating Paasbrood (Easter bread) which is a once-a-year treat made of sweetened bread and almond paste with lemon peel and currants or golden raisins.

A recipe for Paasbrood can be found at:



Russians often celebrate Paskha (Pascha) with a midnight mass. The mass begins on Saturday evening. As Pascha begins at the stroke of midnight, the church bells are rung and the priest proclaims "Christ is risen!" to which the worshipers respond, "He is truly risen!"

Russian Paskha
At Paskha, Russians traditional eat the once-a-year specialty simply called "Paskha," the same as the holiday itself. This is a dessert made of cream cheese and a type of cottage cheese (both foods prohibited during Great Lent). The dessert is shaped like a pyramid and then often decorated with dried fruit. Finally on the top of the Paskha are written in icing the letters "XB" (standing for "Christ is Risen" in Russian). A recipe for Paskha can be found at


The hanging of swings (and the swinging on them) is a traditional Latvian Easter custom. These are
Latvian Easter Swing
usually giant swings large enough to hold unmarried couples and has its origins in rites for finding suitable marriage partners. The swings, however, are not limited to unmarried couples though, and are a great favorite among children. Swinging high is particularly a goal for individuals (rather than couples) as the folk tradition holds that the higher someone can swing, the earlier that Spring will arrive. The custom of springtime swings predates the coming of Christianity in Latvia.

Latvians also dye eggs as in other countries. One Latvian difference here, though, is the use of onion skins to do the dyeing. White eggs are submerged in an onion skin mixture. A short submersion produces a bright yellow egg; a long submersion produces a brown-colored egg. Traditionally, leaves and strings are attached to the eggs before submersion. When the leaves or strings are removed, patterns are left on the eggs. On Easter morning, family and friends engage in Easter egg matches.  Each person knocks his or her egg against one another's eggs. The egg that remains uncracked by the end is supposed to bring the owner good luck and good health for the year.


Easter is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in Sweden, rivaling Christmas in its importance. As Elizabeth Dacey-Fondelius, writing in the English-language Swedish paper The Local, explains:
Easter celebrations and traditions for the secular Swede are nearly as sacred as Christmas to the Swedish culture. Even devout atheists pay respect to the long-standing traditional norms that the holiday dictates in Sweden. Easter is a big deal to the entire country. http://www.thelocal.se/3525/20110421
Swedish Påskkärringar
One uniquely Swedish Easter custom is that of the påskkärringar (Easter witches or hags). On the Thursday before Easter, children paint their cheeks, put on headscarves that tie under their chins and wear long skirts and aprons. Then, carrying their broomsticks, they go door to door among their neighbors asking for Easter treats  (much in the manner of North America's Halloween). On Holy Saturday, much of the country lights bonfires to hasten the påskkärringar on their way back to their secret witches' meadow at Blåkulla (Blue Mountain). In Stockholm, the bonfires are prohibted but the påskkärringar seem to make their way home before Easter in any case.

Swedish påskris
An additional custom fairly unique to Sweden is that of decorating with birch branches -- called  påskris. Swedes adorn the birch branches with brightly-colored feathers and hang decorated easter eggs from them.

The påskris which now shows up in shops and on people's houses and porches are today fairly detached from their original purpose. At one time, undecorated birch branches were used to whip each other's backs on Good Friday to take part in Jesus' suffering on the cross.


I hope that this has been worthwhile, and I welcome your comments or additions. As always, this blog is meant only to inform; there is no intention to indicate what is or is not proper or improper religious practice.

There are many customs and traditions for Easter that I have not included here. Please feel free to share your own in the comments section.

Happy Pascha! Happy Resurrection Day! Happy Easter!

Want To Read More?

Alikiviadis C. Calivas, "The Origins of Pascha and Great Week": http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8504

CelebratingEaster.com:  http://www.celebratingeaster.com/traditions/

Easter World, "Easter Celebrations Around the World": http://www.dgreetings.com/easter/easter-world.html

Mary Fairchild, "What is Easter?" About.com, Christianity:  http://christianity.about.com/od/holidaytips/qt/whatiseaster.htm

Michael San Filippo, "Buona Pasqua! Easter in Italy" : http://italian.about.com/od/festivalsholidays/a/aa031401a.htm

New Advent, "Easter": http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05224d.htm

Nortdstjernan.com "Happy Easter! A Swedish Easter: The symbols, the food, the traditions." http://www.nordstjernan.com/news/traditions/1167

Clip Art Sources

Opening Happy Easter clipart: http://www.clipartpal.com/clipart_pd/holiday/easter/happyeaster_10282.html

Entry of Christ into Jerusalem by Maximino Cereso: http://www.servicioskoinonia.org/cerezo/dibujosA/19RamosA.jpg

Palm Sunday Procession, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem: http://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/21mount-olive-processionjpg.jpg?w=450&h=300

Orthodox Red Pascha Eggs: http://friedababbley.hubpages.com/hub/Cracking-Your-Easter-Eggs-and-other-Greek-Orthodox-Easter-Traditions-and-Facts

Armenian Orthodox foot washing: http://cdn3.wn.com/pd/4a/93/cf0117ef8aa7629a564a8a4ff4ed_grande.jpg

Bermuda Kite: http://members.chello.nl/h.hagg3/Bermuda_Kite_3.htm

Święconka: http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plik:%C5%9Awi%C4%99cone2007.jpg

Easter Bunny with egg basket clip art: https://d27fcql9yjk2c0.cloudfront.net/assets/3178348/lightbox/Easter%20Bunny.jpg?1299876470

White House Easter egg hunt: http://www.army.mil/article/55725/Fort_Meade_youth_hunt_for_Easter_eggs_at_the_White_House/

Children with Easter Bunny, Howell, Michigan Nature Center: http://howellnaturecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Easter-Bunny-Breakfast.jpg
Bilbies not bunnies: http://members.optusnet.com.au/bilbies/Easter_Bilby.htm

Hot Cross Buns: http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/traditional-easter-eats-around-the-world-117631

Pascha Candlelight Procession, Corfu, Greece: http://www.whatsup-corfu.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=682:pascha&catid=36&Itemid=22

Ethiopian difo dabo Easter bread: https://ethiopianwanderlust.com/2014/04/18/fasika-the-eloquent-pieces-of-ethiopian-easter-holiday/

Pilgrims Walk The Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-9ArGiz8HTkc/Ta4Z60-PBuI/AAAAAAAAAPw/dGBsA05xqxk/s1600/JerusalemViaDolorosa1-800wH.jpg

Corse Rusticane in Merano: http://altoadige.gelocal.it/cronaca/2011/04/24/news/corse-rusticane-all-ippodromo-4033076

Explosion of the Scoppio del Carro, Florence: http://www.ultimateitaly.com/festival-events/scoppio-del-carro.html

Dutch Paasbrood: http://www.countryliving.com/recipefinder/dutch-paasbrood-3043

Russian Paskha: http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/traditional-easter-eats-around-the-world-117631

Latvian Easter Swing: http://www.mytravelkit.org/2010/04/happy-easter/

Swedish Påskkärringar:  http://www.thelocal.se/3525/20110421

Swedish påskris: http://www.nordstjernan.com/news/traditions/1167

Closing Happy Easter clip art: http://www.clipartpal.com/clipart_pd/holiday/easter/happyeaster_10285.html

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