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Orthodox Holy Saturday in the United States

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 States 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 18, 2020 and most businesses follow regular Saturday opening hours in the United States.

Orthodox Christians walking around a church on Easter Eve.

©iStockphoto.com/VichoT

What Do People Do?

Many Orthodox Christians in the United States view Holy Saturday as the day of watchful expectation. The mourning period wanes and people wait for Easter Sunday, the day when Jesus was resurrected. Holy Communion can be received on Holy Saturday in some Orthodox churches in the United States.

Some churches hold a midnight liturgy between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. The liturgy usually starts out in darkness, representing the tomb’s darkness, before candles are lit. It is customary in many churches for the clergy and congregation to hold candles as they sing. This practices stems from ancient Christian burial rituals.

Public Life

The Christian Orthodox date for Holy Saturday is not a federal public holiday in the United States.

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 Holy Saturday, are “moveable feasts” as these dates change according to calendar calculations. Holy Saturday is the day between Jesus’ death and his resurrection.

There are different types of Orthodox churches that are well established in the United States. Some of these churches include the Greek Hellenic Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, and the Russian Orthodox Church. 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

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 Type
2015SatApr 11Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox
2016SatApr 30Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox
2017SatApr 15Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox
2018SatApr 7Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox
2019SatApr 27Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox
2020SatApr 18Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox
2021SatMay 1Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox
2022SatApr 23Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox
2023SatApr 15Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox
2024SatMay 4Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox
2025SatApr 19Orthodox Holy SaturdayOrthodox

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