This Sunday, on March 31, Roman Catholics. as well as many members of Eastern Catholic Churches, Protestants and some Orthodox. The Orthodox Easter is celebrated this year on May 5. The day of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ has a special meaning – it is a commemoration of the victory over sin and death. We would like to present some elements of Easter celebrations in Belarus.
The Orthodox Church bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar, the Catholic – on the Gregorian one. Depending on the lunar calendar, it varies between March 31 and May 8. In Belarus it is a national holiday.
Initially, the time of Christian Easter and the Jewish Feast of Passover coincided. In 325, at the First Council of Nicaea, they decided to celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox, and provided that this day the Jewish don’t celebrate their Passover. The ancient Slavs originally called Easter a spring festival in honor of the sun, the awakening of the nature and approaching of the “great days” of field work. With the adoption of Christianity, the Festival got its spiritual meaning and the cleansing power. Spiritual preparations for Easter last 7 weeks – the Great Fast – and end with the Holy Week, when you start to prepare for the feast itself. On Maundy Thursday you clean the house and the yard. The Saturday is great and valuable, as it is the last day before Easter. On Holy Saturday, a day before Easter, you prepare, cook, and fry a lot of different dishes, bake cakes, color and paint patterns on eggs. In the evening of the same day you smarten yourself up, take the “paskha” and eggs prepared for consecration, and go to church for the vespers service. Eggs were the main element of celebration. They were colored with the help of onion skin or bark of trees, which gave them a red color (also there were “pisanki” – Painted Easter eggs – eggs, painted with different patterns). Elderly people advised to peel the egg before consecration to make the holiness going inside the egg easier. The red Easter egg is a symbol of Christ’s suffering.
In the old days the eggs were used in a variety of folk rituals that now are partially forgotten. Mothers stroked faces of their children with a red egg, so they were always rosy and red-cheeked. The eggs exchange between a man and a woman signified declaration of love. The first received from anyone Easter Egg was believed miraculous, that can curb the fire and provide the protection from lightnings for a year. Some practices, such as playing chops, are still popular. Checking the strength of one’s egg shells was associated with the test of one’s own life, prosperity, and health safety.
A characteristic feature of the Belarusian folklore is valachobny songs. The custom of walking around all the yards on Easter has very ancient roots. They believed that Valachobniki – boys and girls – walking around the village brought unity and good luck to the community. Coming up to the window, Valachobniki sang songs praising the host, hostess, their sons and daughters. The hosts generously presented them with different delicacies. Valachbny tradition in Belarus was more popular in the central and north-west regions, but not in Polesie. In some places, women went to sing separately from men. Men often went to sing on the second day of Easter. Valachobny songs were sang only during the first days of Easter to the accompaniment of a violin, or – rarely – an accordion. On Easter, people looked at the sun, as it was believed that it is possible to see the resurrected Christ – the sun is “jumping for joy”. After the liturgy, the celebration continues at home. People break their fast with a consecrated egg, and then eat the rest of the consecrated food. Young people like playing chops – an egg knocking contest. The winner is the one who has his own egg safe (“brawny fellow”) while gathering eggs that “lost”. Some lucky people have won as much as a hat full of red eggs. Easter is a moveable feast.
Translated by MA