Updated: May 24
Easter's date changes each year due to Passover and the difference between the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars. The date of the Catholic Easter festival fluctuates between March 22 and April 25. Consequently, the other mobile feasts of the liturgical calendar take place.
According to Hebrew time reckoning, we are currently in the sixth millennium. The Hebrew year count starts in the year 3761 BCE (before the common era). The practice was implemented in the 12th-century when the Jewish philosopher Maimonides established the timeframe as the biblical date of Creation.
According to Time and Date, "Years in the Jewish calendar are designated AM to identify them as part of the Anno Mundi epoch." The Anno Mundi epoch indicates "the age of the world, according to the Bible. For example, the beginning of this year 2021 in the Gregorian calendar converts to year AM 5781 in the Jewish calendar."
Jews eat the paschal lamb on the eve of Nisan 15 (the first month of the Jewish calendar). According to Jewish custom, Jesus celebrated Passover (the last dinner), that is, Nisan 14, died on the cross on Nisan 15 and was resurrected the following Sunday, which this year was Nisan 17.
The Jewish calendar (Hebrew calendar) is lunar, and our calendar is solar, which complicates things a lot. For example, the Jewish calendar has 354 days (11 days shorter than the Roman calendar we use, also called the Gregorian calendar). To bring it into line with the solar year, Jews, by order of Sanhedrin (council), add one month every two or three years, for a total of seven times within 19 years. Such a situation has given rise to numerous controversies over the date for the celebration of Easter.
In the early days, Christians of Jewish origin continued to use the Jewish calendar for Easter, celebrating Holy Friday on the 15th of Nisan and the Resurrection Easter on the 17th of Nisan.
In the rest of the Roman empire, however, it was taken into account that Jesus historically rose on Sunday, the reason why His Resurrection is celebrated on Sundays. It was then decided to celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. The First Council of Nicaea (under Emperor Constantine in AD 325) decreed that the Roman practice must be observed throughout the church.
Constantine the First Christian Roman Emperor, and in AD 325, he called the first Catholic and Ecumenical Council of Nicea.
Ukrainians celebrate Easter on different dates because Orthodox Church follows the Hebrew calendar, which also gave origin to a strange holiday called the "Old New Year."
In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII instituted a new calendar system called Gregorian or "new style." At the Council of Constantinople in 1583, recognizing the Julian calendar's inaccuracy, the Orthodox Church refused to change to Gregorian. According to the "new style," Christian Easter sometimes coincides with the Jew or comes before, prohibiting apostolic rules. At the same time, Protestant countries entered the Gregorian calendar only in the 18th century. Thus, for a long time, the New Year for Protestants and Orthodox arrived 14 days after Catholics.
The Tradition of Singing Christmas Carols in Ukraine.
For this same reason, Ukraine celebrates Christmas on January 7, where traditionally, the house hostess prepares a 12-course meal. This number is related to the 12 months of the year and the 12 apostles of Jesus.
In 1700, by decree of Tsar Pedro I, the New Year is celebrated in the Russian Empire, "... following the example of all Christian people ..." on January 1, but still according to the Julian calendar.
In the 18th century, virtually all Protestant countries transitioned to the Gregorian style. In Russia, only on February 14, 1918, according to a Sovnarkom decree signed January 24, 1918 (Julian) by Vladimir Lenin. The law required that the Julian date be written in parentheses after the Gregorian date until July 1, 1918. With the Julian calendar maintained till then, the New Year in Russian lands did not coincide with the West.
Nevertheless, the churches in Russia, Serbia, and Jerusalem refused to move to a new calendar, resulting in all fixed religious holidays. The New Year is celebrated in the old style; thus, a rare historical and cultural phenomenon was formed, such as people kept celebrating the now called Old New Year. It is still celebrated today in Ukraine, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro, and some parts of Switzerland on January 14 in the Gregorian calendar.
At left, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, and at right, Pope Francis. Both met in Cuba in February 2016. The first time leaders of the two churches talk in almost one thousand years.
Celebrating the New Year, Christmas and Easter is an ancient tradition in Ukraine.
Easter time is anticipated by Lent, which takes 40 days. Lent (Latin: Quadragesima, 'Fortieth') is a solemn religious moveable observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent) and ends approximately six weeks later in the night before Easter's Sunday.
That is a time of penance and strict fasting when people cannot eat meat, fat, milk products, and alcohol. During this Lenten period, weddings and large parties are not celebrated.
Easter is a family celebration. People return to their parent's homes, and cities are almost empty, and the villages are crowded.
The Easter Liturgy is celebrated in Ukrainian, and according to tradition, it starts on Saturday and goes through all night till Sunday morning. During the celebration, people sing 12 gospels while inside or going around the church. Without a doubt, this celebration is the most solemn of the year. Everyone sings, "Christ rose from the dead, overcame death with death, and gave life to those who were dead."
From this day on, people greet each other with the words "Christ has risen!" – to which the other person replies, "In truth, he has risen!"
The paschal blessing of the food is an essential component. People gather in the courtyard in front of the church, and the priest blesses the baskets with the food. Eating those blessed products is only allowed after Easter Mass.
During these days, periodically, the church bells ring, symbolizing the victory of life over death. The culminating rite is the blessing and sanctification of food - gifts from God on earth.
People go to the churches with baskets full of products that they were unable to eat during Lent. Lately, the wine started to be added to Easter baskets for the blessing as a symbol of the blood of Jesus as Easter bread symbolizes His body. (strong alcoholic drinks began to be added later, but let's not go that way; supposedly, people had forty days of strong abstention.
Since ancient times, breakfast is solemn. No matter where the person is or lives, in Ukraine, everybody goes to the Easter breakfast with the family after church.
People sit at the tables and have meals near the graves of their beloved at the cemetery in Kyiv. These days are waited near 1,5 million Kievans to come to Kyiv's cemeteries.
The Easter meal happens in the following way: the head of the family divides the benedict egg into many pieces, leaving it on a plate for those who left for the family's eternity. The egg is a symbol of the Resurrection of Christ because as from the dead, a new life shall be born, so Christ left the grave for the new life. After eating the eggs, they eat Easter bread and all the food they have prepared for the holiday.
A week plus one day after Easter Day (8 days after) is Memorial Day, when the whole family goes to the cemetery. They take the Easter baskets and the eggs to share the joy of Resurrection with the deceased ones. Those who visited Ukraine may have the opportunity to notice tables in the graveyards next to the graves.
The symbol of Easter in Ukraine is the Pysanky
(a colored egg that means life, health, and prosperity).
The Slavic tradition of painting eggs (pysanky) has a pagan origin, but after the Christianization of Kievan Rus' in 988, eggs lost their pagan elements. Since that time, people started to paint eggs to give to relatives and friends at Easter time, demonstrating best wishes to their beloved ones.
This traditional Ukrainian art dates from very ancient pagan times. Eggs were painted as an offer to the gods in early spring for a successful crop after the Slavic hard winters.
First, the drawing was made with a pencil on a raw egg, drawing the desire geometric images and symbols with a very powerful and deeply felt meaning
The egg filling was gently removed using a syringe before or after drawing was done on the shell. The eggs were then buried in the fields to express gratitude for a good harvest to come.
An eight-hour drive from Kyiv direction to Ivano Frankivsky (Western Ukraine) is Kolomyia, famous for the world's only Pysanka or Easter Egg Museum. Of course, it's built in the shape of a giant egg and houses an impressive collection of intricately decorated specimens from all over the world.
The word pysanky come from the verb "pysat," which means "to write." According to the Ukrainian tradition, the pysanky or written egg is given to a dear and particular person as of great value. Birthdays, weddings, births, and even deaths are still moments to give someone such an important symbol. Pysanky is rich in mysticism, bringing specific messages and symbolism of life.
During the communist and atheistic regime, pysanky were banned but continued to be practiced far from the big cities. Later, with the arrival of Christianity, pysanky became the Ukrainian symbol for Easter and the Resurrection of Christ.
What does the profound message say in each Ukrainian Easter egg?
Pysanky (Easter eggs) belong to the best works of Ukrainian folk art. From olden times, they were made by rural girls and women, monks and icon painters, urban ladies, bakers, and many others in the spring, right before Easter. That's why the decoration techniques vary so much.
Researchers believe that the Ukrainian Easter egg has over 100 symbolic patterns. The vast majority of pysanka ornaments have an ancient origin, and they all have a special meaning and strength.
1. Horse 2. Deer 3. Sheep 4. Lion
The sun was portrayed on Easter eggs in the form of a circle, an octopus star (also called "ruzha"), a cross, a tripod (the image of three beams that came from one point and were twisted in one direction). Or a svarga (the rotating cross that is a symbol of the development of the universe and the Slavic amulet, connected with the pagan god of fire and war – Svarog).
The cross is the ancient symbol of the sun, fire, and soul. It is considered to be a "God's sign." The cross is the intersection of two lines: eternity (vertical) and time (horizontal). It is a symbol of being and nothingness, beginning and end. In Christianity, this symbol represents the suffering and joy of the Resurrection and the redemption of sins.
This symbol was depicted in the form of five-, six-, seven-, and eight-cornered stars. The hexagonal star is a signal of six sides of the horizon correlated with the sky and the sign of the year: two halves for six months. The octagonal star is a symbol of love (a pysanka with a star presented as a gift was considered a confession of feelings).
In the Ukrainian tradition, this symbol is associated with children. That's why women who could not get pregnant for a long time were advised to decorate Easter eggs with flowers and present them to children.
Green trees, branches, and leaves are a symbol of life, spring renewal after winter sleep, eternal youth, health, and growth.
Curl, Snake, Spiral
These are the symbols of vitality and the birth of life. Pysanka with these ornaments gives health.
S-shaped sign of eternity
This sign represents the union of opposites. It symbolizes unity (the beginning and the end) in the fight of heat and cold, day and night, light and darkness, man and woman.
Infinity symbol (doodles)
Symbolize water and its fluidity. Water is also the embodiment of the life-giving female principle, the source of natural forces. In Christianity, water symbolizes purification (the rite of baptism). On pysanka, water is depicted in the form of doodles as well as zigzags and wavy patterns.
40/48 swords (blades)
They symbolize ordering, stop before the test, and fertility. A pysanka may have 40 and more sword triangles (some Easter eggs have over 60). The number 40 is symbolic in human life: 40 weeks a woman is pregnant. In Christianity: 40 days lasts Lent, 40 years Moisei was wandering in search of the promised land.
Tree of life
It symbolizes the universe where every creature has its own place, where each phenomenon is subjected to rules. This image combines the vision of time, space, life, and death.
The tree can be divided into several parts: the tree crown (the world of heaven where birds, bees, and heavenly bodies are traditionally depicted: the sun, stars, and moon), the tree trunk (the earth world: large animals and people), and tree roots (underground world and water: here snakes, frogs, fish, and waterfowl are depicted). On a pysanka, the tree of life is displayed in the form of a flower pot with a floral tree symbolizing the family (father, mother, and children).
Rakes, Combs, Triangles with Combs
These patterns also symbolize water, embodying clouds and rain. Pysanky with rakes and combs were made in drought to "invite" rains to bring a good harvest.
Duck legs, God's hand, gloves, grandfather's fingers
These symbols stand for power, patronage, and unity.
It symbolizes the sun. There are two varieties of ornament: the right-hand side represents the rising sun, goodness, the awakening of nature in the spring, and positive male energy, while the left-hand side means the sunset, destruction, degradation, evil, and negative female energy.
Swarga is also the embodiment of luck, longevity, fertility, health, and life. On Easter eggs, it is displayed in the form of a broken or hooked cross (in some regions, this ornament was also called leeches, rooster combs, and duck necks).
According to the Christian tradition, the grapevine is a symbol of spiritual revival and the ancient symbol of the family.