When we think of Easter, the first images that come to mind are chocolate eggs, egg hunts, and bunny rabbits. While many of us use Easter as an excuse to consume ridiculous amounts of chocolate (I’m guilty of this), rarely do we think about the reasons behind this tradition.
So why do we have chocolate eggs during Easter?
There are various symbols and customs associated with eggs. Christian customs have associated eggs with the symbols of fertility, birth and rebirth. During the middle ages, it was customary for people to dye eggs in bright colours and decorate them. The first chocolate Easter eggs originated in France and Germany, and as mass manufacturing processes improved, the chocolate egg was established as a popular Easter gift worldwide.
Greek Orthodox Christians paint their eggs red to symbolize the blood of Jesus. A popular game is to tap their eggs against a friends’ eggs. The winner, with the un-cracked egg, is considered lucky.
Speaking of Orthodox Easter, ever wonder why Roman Catholic Easter and Orthodox Easter are sometimes celebrated on different days? This year, Roman Catholic Easter fell on Sunday, April 5. Orthodox Easter falls on Sunday, April 12.
The short answer for this is that different churches follow different calendars. While Catholic Christians and Orthodox Christians both follow a calendar around Jesus Christ’s life, the calendars they follow celebrate Christ’s resurrection, sometimes on the same day, like last year (2014), but most of the times on different dates.
The Catholics use the Gregorian calendar (created by Pope Gregory 13 in the 16th Century) and the Greek Orthodox use the Julian calendar (created in year 46BC). The Gregorian calendar has a reduced number of leap years, which makes it come closer to astronomical reality. In contrast, the Julian calendar has a leap day every 4 years, which results in a calendar year that is an average of 11 minutes and 14 seconds longer than the earth’s actual journey around the sun. Consequently, Easter winds up falling on different days (and just to confuse you more, the gap between the two Easters is different every year).
So if you ever have plans of celebrating “Easter Weekend” in Greece, might be good for you to specify the date. Otherwise, you could get your dates mixed up with Greeks who might assume you’re referring to Greek Easter!
Easter is an important period for many people. For some cultures, Easter carries more importance than Christmas.
During Easter time in Greece, travelers are likely to hear typical phrases used in greetings. On Easter itself, “Christos Anesti!” or “Christ is risen!” will be on everyone’s lips. It may be startling if you hear it at midnight, along with the booming sounds of fireworks, but many Greek towns celebrate the resurrection that way. Visitors may also hear “Kalo Pashcha!” or “Beautiful Easter (to you)!”
Given the cultural significance of this significant period, there is an opportunity for brands to show their support for their Orthodox customers during this time. Check out the St.George campaign we recently worked on which highlighted the brand’s support for the Greek community. Greek Orthodox Easter fell on April 12 this year, next year it will fall on May 1, 2016.