Easter, East to West

Weaver’s Inspire Impact Team: Courageous Conversations

It’s one of the most important Christian holidays, and every spring Christians all over the world celebrate Easter with religious celebrations, food, and festivities. Traditions vary widely, not only in foods and rituals, but even in the date of the celebration. Two Weaver staff members, Sasha Gartman and Paulina Rocha, share some of their own traditions.

From Russia: Pashka

by Sasha Gartman

For Russian Orthodox Christians, Easter is one of our most important holidays. It has many beautiful and unique customs and traditions inherited from our ancestors. In the Russian language, Easter is called “Paskha,” presumably derived from the Jewish holiday of Pesach, or Passover. This year the Russian Orthodox Easter will be May 2, because we follow the old Julian calendar, rather than the Gregorian calendar observed by most other Christian churches. We do not have Easter egg hunts and Easter bunnies like Christians do here in the U.S.

Easter is preceded by 40 days of Lent, during which you are not supposed to eat meat or dairy products. During Holy Week, the last week before the holiday, on Thursday the house should be thoroughly cleaned (“Clean Thursday”) and eggs are traditionally decorated. One of the oldest traditions is to paint the eggs using cooked onion skins so that they look dark brown.

On the Saturday before Easter, the traditional Easter food is prepared and it is common to go to church to bless the food. The Easter church service starts Saturday night and lasts until dawn.

Russian Easter

Sunday morning is time to enjoy the traditional Easter breakfast, which includes the decorated eggs, “kulich,” which is similar to Italian panettone, and “paskha,” a pyramid-shaped cake made of cottage cheese and raisins.

In my family we always play a game, very popular in Russia, of trying to crack each other’s boiled and decorated eggs. The winner is the person whose egg cracks last. It is also very common to exchange Easter eggs and kulich with friends and family, kissing each other on the cheek three times. People greet each other on Easter Sunday saying “Christ is risen!” and responding with “He is truly risen!”

Orthodox Easter is celebrated not only in Russia, but also in a few other Eastern European countries. In Ukraine, it is also a tradition on Easter Monday to pour water unannounced over your friends and family.

From Mexico: Semana Santa (Holy Week)

by Paulina Rocha

In Mexico, during “Semana Santa” or Holy Week, Catholics recreate the events that unfolded in the last days of Jesus Christ on Earth. These events are referred to as the Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Christ. It is a very important religious holiday for the Mexican Catholic community. Many businesses and schools are closed during Holy week, especially on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

Throughout the world, Mexico is known for its delicious cuisine. During Lent and Holy Week, we prepare what is known as “las siete cazuelas” or seven meals. In some homes, people prepare a special meal on Good Friday that includes fried fish, lentil soup, nopalitos (cactus dish), habas cocidas (beans), and capirotada (Mexican bread pudding).

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, a day that individuals attend mass and, at the end, purchase crosses made from palm leaves, which are blessed with Holy Water. Following Palm Sunday, every day is of special significance, but the most spectacular traditions occur on Thursday and Friday.  On Thursday, many communities hold processions of the Last Supper.

Mexico Easter

On Good Friday, people participate in the processions of the “Via Crucis” or Via Dolorosa and the “Tres Caidas” (Three Falls), re-enacting Jesus’ path and suffering while carrying His cross on the way to the crucifixion. Many towns have processions where the faithful, barefoot and clothed in scratchy fabrics, carry heavy platforms with Catholic saints or statues of the Virgin Mary. People fast or abstain from eating red meat. Mass is not held and the Eucharist is not practiced.

The week concludes with Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. On Holy Saturday, many take part in the tradition of burning of figures representing Judas or the seven deadly sins. Finally, on Easter Sunday or Resurrection Day, people celebrate that Christ has risen. Mass is held and the “Cirio Pascual” is lit symbolizing Christ’s Resurrection. It is lit for all celebrations until Pentecost, 50 days later.


Welcoming Spring and Resurrection in Many Traditions

Weaver’s “Courageous Conversations” Impact Team, part of Inspire, was created to foster open discussions across the many religious and cultural backgrounds represented at our firm. For more in this series, see our articles on Holi and the Lunar New Year.

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