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Orthodox Holy Saturday in the United Kingdom

Holy Saturday is the day when Jesus lay in his tomb after his death, according to Christian belief. Many Orthodox Christian churches in the United Kingdom often observe Holy Saturday at a later date than the Holy Saturday date observed by many western churches. Holy Saturday is also known as Holy and Great Saturday.

Is Orthodox Holy Saturday a Public Holiday?

Orthodox Holy Saturday is not a public holiday. It falls on Saturday, April 27, 2019 and most businesses follow regular Saturday opening hours in the United Kingdom.

Orthodox Christians walking around a church on Easter Eve.
Orthodox Christians walking around a church on Easter Eve.
©iStockphoto.com/VichoT

What Do People Do?

Many Orthodox churches in the United Kingdom mark Holy Saturday as the day of watchful expectation. The mourning period wanes and people wait for Easter Sunday, which is the day when Jesus was resurrected. Many Greek Orthodox Christians also believe in the Holy Fire, which they say is a miracle that occurs at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday every year. Some people in the United Kingdom attempt to journey to Jerusalem as part of the pilgrimage to experience this phenomenon.

Many Orthodox Christian churches hold special liturgies in the night on Holy Saturday, while others have their liturgies in the morning of Holy Saturday. The priest’s vestments, which are ceremonial gowns worn by clergy, are changed to white at the Prokeimenon (psalm or canticle refrain sung, usually to introduce scripture reading) of the Holy Saturday liturgy in many Orthodox Christian churches. Holy Saturday is part of Holy Week, which is a special fast in honor of Jesus Christ’s Passion. The fast occurs from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday.

Public Life

The Christian Orthodox date for Holy Saturday is not a bank holiday in the United Kingdom.

Background

Many Orthodox churches retained the Julian calendar after the Gregorian calendar was introduced in Europe in 1582. Therefore they often follow a different Easter date compared with many western churches. Easter holidays, such as Easter Saturday, are “moveable feasts” as these dates change according to calendar calculations.

There are different types of Orthodox churches in the United Kingdom, including the Greek Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church, and the Russian Orthodox Church. Congregation numbers have grown in these churches due to immigration. Many Orthodox Christians in the United Kingdom are immigrants or descendents of immigrants from countries such as Greece, Romania and Russia.

It is believed that Greek immigrants started arriving in London during the late 17th century. The United Kingdom experienced a surge of immigrants, especially from Greece and Russia, during the 20th century. They brought with them their customs, traditions, and religious observances.

Symbols

Candles that are lit during Holy Saturday church liturgies symbolize Jesus Christ’s victory over death, as well as the Christian belief in his resurrection. It can also mean spiritual hope and victory.

About Orthodox Holy Saturday in other countries

Read more about Orthodox Holy Saturday.

Orthodox Holy Saturday Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010SatApr 3Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox 
2011SatApr 23Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox 
2012SatApr 14Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox 
2013SatMay 4Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox 
2014SatApr 19Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox 
2015SatApr 11Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox 
2016SatApr 30Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox 
2017SatApr 15Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox 
2018SatApr 7Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox 
2019SatApr 27Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox 
2020SatApr 18Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox 

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