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27 Apr, 2008 12:03

Happy Easter! Orthodox Christians celebrate biggest holiday

Russian Orthodox believers are celebrating Easter – the most important day in the Orthodox calendar. During the night festive Easter services were held in Russia and across the world. Patriarch Aleksy II led a midnight service at Christ the Sav

Patriarch Aleksy II has addressed Russian Orthodox Christians on Holy Easter Sunday.

“Dear brothers and sisters! Lent is over, and so are the seven days of the Passion Week. For Orthodox Christians, this has been a time of intense prayer, repentant thoughts and good deeds – all that which in Orthodox tradition is called the ‘purification of feelings’. And today, having purified our feelings, we are ready to meet the Resurrected Christ. Leaving behind all that is insignificant we are celebrating the holiest, the most joyful day of Resurrection, the Holy Easter. During these days of joy, it’s very important to preserve and multiply the spiritual potential, the treasury of good deeds which we have managed to collect, with God’s help, during the repentant days of the Holy Lent,” the Patriarch said.

It hasn’t been easy, getting in to Russia's main cathedral – but everyone who has come here says it has been worth it.

Candles which illuminated Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral arrived from Jerusalem, where the fire is said to appear miraculously each year on the eve of Easter celebrations. The light is a symbol that literally connects over 200 million Orthodox believers worldwide.

Easter is a traditional holiday in Russia, and, in accordance with tradition, the country's top man attends the service. This year, these were two top men, as president-elect Dmitry Medvedev stood alongside Russia's current leader Vladimir Putin.

The Holy Day also marks the end of Lent – a 40 day fast, during which believers are not allowed to consume meat, dairy, eggs, and alcohol. Easter Sunday is a joyous occasion for all Orthodox believers when they give each other coloured eggs and special Easter cake.

Easter celebrations in Kosovo, Israel and Greece 

Apart form Russia, the seat of the largest of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the holiday is being celebrated in other parts of the world as well.

In Kosovo hundreds of ethnic Serbs gathered on Sunday for church services. The celebrations took on a political light after the patriarch in Belgrade urged worshippers to defend Kosovo following its declaration of independence from Serbia in February.

In Jerusalem, hundreds of Greek Orthodox Christians held a colourful procession in the Old City. Israel also allowed Gaza Christians to enter Jerusalem .

And on the Greek island of Chios, believers turned the celebration into a spectacle of light and explosions.

According to a tradition dating back to the 19th century, each year the parishioners of two churches battle it out with rockets which they fire at the rival church attempting to hit the bell tower.