In a year when spring was late to arrive, would it surprise you to know, that for one segment of the population at least, Easter is, too?
Members of the Saints Anargyroi Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester celebrate the holiday, which they call Pascha, in a series of daily services ending Sunday.
This year's gulf of days between Western Easter (March 31) and Orthodox Easter (May 5) is about the widest it can be, said the Rev. Mark Muñoz, of the Orthodox church.
In some years, such as 2014 and 2017, the holidays fall on the same date. The reason they sometimes don't has to do with ancient traditions, some shared, some different. Among them:
• Both Easters are set on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
• Orthodox Easter, however, may not coincide with Jewish Passover. "The way the West does it, Passover can occur at the same time as Easter," Muñoz said. "In the ancient church, this was a big deal, because they wanted to maintain the chronological events of the crucifixion."
•Here's the kicker: The date of Orthodox Easter is set using the Julian calendar — the worldwide standard in early Christian era. The Western church adopted the current Gregorian calendar in the 16th century. "So that further exacerbates the whole issue," Muñoz said. "We're using different calendars to reconcile a date."
If you care to explore further differences, consider this: In Holy Week — an "eight-day marathon," says Muñoz — the regular worship schedule is turned on its head. Morning matins observances are celebrated 12 hours earlier than usual, at evening. And evening vespers is called at morning. It's to set up an Easter celebration that kicks off at midnight in the early-morning hours Easter Sunday, when worshippers parade around the block, singing and carrying religious icons.
Sure, the Easter bunny might have hopped through town on March 31, but if you think that spoils the holiday for Orthodox believers, you haven't heard Muñoz's retort.
"Of course, people will run and buy the Easter candy when it goes on sale the day after Western Easter," he said tongue-in-cheek. "We can buy that stuff at deeply discounted prices to give to our kids."
More seriously, he added: "For the most part, we don't encourage the whole chocolate bunny deal. The only thing that we give out — we do Easter eggs, but they're all colored dark red, obviously the symbolism of the blood that was shed. So we have very specific traditions surrounding Pascha that we really hold to very intensely. Not that there's anything wrong with the Easter bunny and stuff like that, but to us, that's just more of a celebration of spring and fertility than it is the resurrection of Christ."