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Orthodox Easter in the United States

Many Orthodox Christians in the United States celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday. The Orthodox Christian date for Easter Sunday often occurs at a later date than the Easter date observed by many western churches. The day is also known as Pascha, Easter and Easter Day.

Is Orthodox Easter a Public Holiday?

Orthodox Easter is not a public holiday. It falls on Sunday, April 28, 2019 and most businesses follow regular Sunday opening hours in the United States.

Orthodox Easter eggs are often dyed red but can also be lavishly decorated.
Orthodox Easter eggs are often dyed red but can also be lavishly decorated.
©iStockphoto.com/Andrei_Badau

What Do People Do?

Many Orthodox Christian churches, including the Greek Orthodox and the Russian Orthodox churches, celebrate the “miracle of Easter” on the Easter Sunday date in the Julian calendar. Many people see Easter as the most important event in the church calendar. Orthodox Easter preparations begin with 40 days of strict fasting prior to Easter Day. Many Orthodox Christians attend liturgies during the Holy Week that leads up to Easter Sunday.

Some Americans who are members of the Russian Orthodox Christian community still practice the tradition of laying Easter eggs and Easter bread on dead relatives’ graves. This practice is a way of greeting the dead with news that Jesus Christ has risen. Many Greek Orthodox Christians buy Easter bread, known as tsoureki, and prepare lamb for the Easter feast.

Another tradition observed in many Orthodox Christian churches is the blessing of food baskets. The baskets are usually filled with bread, cheese, meat, eggs, butter, salt, and other types of food used for Paschal celebrations. The fasting period has ended and meat and dairy products can be eaten.

Public Life

The Orthodox Christian date for Easter Sunday is not a federal public holiday in the United States. However, it is held on a Sunday, which is a non-school day and non-working day for many Americans.

Background

Many Orthodox churches base their Easter date on the Julian calendar, which differs from the Gregorian calendar that is used by many western countries. Therefore the Orthodox Easter period often occurs later than the Easter period that falls after the time of the March equinox.

There are different types of Orthodox churches that are well established in the United States, including the Greek Hellenic Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, the Russian Orthodox Church, and many others. The Russian Orthodox Church in North America can be traced back to the late 18th century, where a Russian church was built on Kodiak Island in Alaska during that period. Alaska was previously part of Russia until the United States bought the land. The number of Greek Orthodox churches grew as Greek immigration increased after the late 19th century in the United States.

Symbols

The Easter egg is hard-boiled and often dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ. It was an important symbol connected with spring fertility rituals in many early civilizations. Many Greek Orthodox Christians rap their eggs against their friends' eggs and the owner of the last uncracked egg is considered lucky. Another important symbol associated with Easter is the lamb. It is often depicted with a banner that bears a cross, and it is known as the Agnus Dei, meaning "Lamb of God" in Latin.

About Orthodox Easter in other countries

Read more about Orthodox Easter.

Orthodox Easter Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010SunApr 4Orthodox EasterOrthodox 
2011SunApr 24Orthodox EasterOrthodox 
2012SunApr 15Orthodox EasterOrthodox 
2013SunMay 5Orthodox EasterOrthodox 
2014SunApr 20Orthodox EasterOrthodox 
2015SunApr 12Orthodox EasterOrthodox 
2016SunMay 1Orthodox EasterOrthodox 
2017SunApr 16Orthodox EasterOrthodox 
2018SunApr 8Orthodox EasterOrthodox 
2019SunApr 28Orthodox EasterOrthodox 
2020SunApr 19Orthodox EasterOrthodox 

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