My Sons List of Top 5 Religious Easter Events in the World

    My Sons List of Top 5 Religious Easter Events in the World

    By Kimberly Dijkstra

     

    Easter is an important holiday in the Christian religion and it encompasses more than a single Sunday in the early springtime. The Easter season begins with Ash Wednesday, a full 46 days before Easter Sunday. It kicks off Lent, a period of time during which observers practice prayer, fasting, and acts of charity. 

    Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week, followed by Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday, and culminating in Pentecost, which marks the end of the Easter season. 

    During all this time period, Christians show their faith and celebrate the season in a number of ways. Here are the top 5 religious Easter events around the world. 

    Vatican City – Celebration of the Passion of the Lord

    Good Friday is the day Christians celebrate the crucifixion and death of Jesus. As the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope leads a procession through Vatican City and Rome that represents the Passion of Christ. Passion, in this case, means to suffer, bear, or endure, which is the root of the word patience. 

    The annual ritual reenacts 14 stages of the Passion, known as Stations of the Cross. It represents Jesus being condemned to death, carrying the cross across a distance, and dying on the cross. At the Good Friday event, the Pope reads a meditation at each station while a large cross is lit with flames at the Colosseum. 

    The streets in the area close to accommodate the crowds of people who attend. 


    Solemn Easter Vigil – Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

    The largest Catholic church in the United States, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is located adjacent to Catholic University in Washington D.C. With a shrine that stands 200 feet tall, the basilica was built in the early 20th century in a Byzantine Revival and Romanesque Revival style. 

    On Holy Saturday, the church hosts the Solemn Easter Vigil, which celebrates the Resurrection of the Lord. The nighttime Service of Light includes the Blessing of the Fire and a candlelight procession through the Great Upper Church. The flames represent Jesus Christ, the light of the world in the Catholic faith. 

    The liturgical celebration is livestreamed online and broadcast on EWTN, Global Christian Television Network, for those who cannot attend in person. 



    New Orleans – The Historic French Quarter Easter Parade

    The city of New Orleans has a large Roman Catholic population, as well as a sizable population of Baptists, Methodists, and Episcopalians. Every year, NOLA hosts several Easter parades, with the Historic French Quarter Easter Parade focusing most on the religious significance of the holiday. 

    The parade begins at Antoine’s Restaurant, one of the oldest family-owned restaurants in the country, and features carriages drawn by mules, classic convertible cars, and a tradition of parade walkers throwing Easter trinkets to visitors who observe from the sidelines. 

    The procession travels to St. Louis Cathedral for Mass, then the parade moves to Jackson Square and back to Antoine’s restaurant, where awards are given out for best Easter attire. 


    Antigua, Guatemala – Easter Festival

    The beautiful city of Antigua in Guatemala, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, becomes even more beautiful at Eastertime when artisans paint carpets assembled on the streets for stretches up to a half-mile long. Created with stencils, sawdust, sand, flower petals, fruits, and vegetables in vibrant colors, the “alfombras” depict religious scenes, as well as Mayan traditions and Guatemalan history. 

    On the morning of Good Friday, Guatemalans dress in purple robes and walk down the long carpets with floats and sculptures of Jesus and Mary, destroying the designs underfoot. The art is meant to be ephemeral and the natural materials are swept up and recycled afterwards.  

    The entire Holy Week, or Semana Santa, is full of various celebrations and draws many travelers to witness the Easter displays.

     


    Easter Celebrations throughout Greece 

    Because it follows the Julian calendar, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Easter several days or weeks later than Western Christian denominations. In Greece, Easter holidays, or Pascha, are huge celebrations, with each custom and ritual taken seriously.

    Many people fast during Sarakosti (Lent), or only during Megali Evdomada (Holy Week). Traditionally, on Holy Thursday eggs are dyed red, a symbol of the blood of Christ, and people bake sweet bread and cookies. On Good Friday, there are Epitafios processions, where a wooden structure depicting Jesus is adorned with flowers, silver, and gold, and carried through the streets. The candlelit ceremonies begin and end in church and take place nationwide.

    On Easter Sunday, it is common for Orthodox Christians to roast goat and lamb on spits, share a big feast, and set off fireworks. A variation on the fireworks tradition, the island of Chios holds Rouketopolemos, or a “rocket war”, and fires homemade rockets between two rival churches. The tradition is so old, no one remembers how the churches became rivals, but the event continues annually and draws many tourists to view the spectacle. 

     

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