Easter is one of the most significant celebrations observed by the Orthodox faithful, yet not everyone knows the meaning behind the many traditions.
With today marking Holy Thursday, it is tradition to dye eggs red in the lead up to the anastasi.
While there are variations of the custom’s origins, it is said to have originated among the early Christians of Mesopotamia, who would stain eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ, which was shed for the salvation of humanity.
There is also a story that two years after the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene was on her way to Jerusalem carrying a basket full of white eggs where she met with the governor Tiberius. She welcomed him to Jerusalem and requested that he do good by the people of Jerusalem, unlike his predecessor Pontius Pilate who crucified the Son of God.
Tiberius however wanted further confirmation of the resurrection and miracles performed by Christ, and said that if the white eggs in Mary’s basket turned red that he would believe. The eggs then turned red, and Mary gave one to the governor and took one for herself, saying “Christ is Risen” to which he replied “Truly, he is risen”.
The egg itself is also symbolic of the burial and resurrection of Jesus. When the egg hatches and life bursts out of the egg shell – a symbol of Christ’s tomb – it serves as a reminder of Christ’s resurrection and everlasting life.
The pious also fast for six weeks of Lent, which is then followed by a feast on Easter Sunday signifying the end of sacrifice, and according to Father Sotirios Papafilopoulos of St Paraskevi Orthodox Church is meant to teach us “discipline and control”.
The Lenten period sees people give up meat, along with dairy products, fish and in some cases olive oil. While not an animal product, centuries ago the oil was encased in sheep’s skin and deemed as tainted.
Each year the date of Easter Sunday changes however, as it is based on the Julian calendar and observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon.
“The significance of Easter is the victory of life over death. Jesus, with his resurrection, puts an end to spiritual death,” Fr Papafilopoulos told the Daily Telegraph.
“The message will be one of hope and new life.”