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When Is Greek Orthodox Easter and Dates Leading Up to It

dormition of virgin mary 15 august
Greek Easter is the most important religious feast of the year. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain

The period leading up to the Greek Orthodox Easter, or Pascha, the most important religious feast of the year, is called Sarakosti, signifying 40 days of Great Lent.

It started on Monday 18 March when Greek Orthodox celebrate “Kathara Deftera,” Greek for “Clean Monday.”

Clean Monday also puts an end to the riotous Carnival celebrations that preceded it, inviting all Orthodox Christians to leave behind the sinful attitudes associated with Carnival festivities — and non-fasting foods, which were largely consumed during the three weeks of the Carnival.

Important dates in the countdown to Greek Orthodox Easter

Sarakosti, 18 March- 3 May 2024

Sarakosti is considered one of the most important annual feasts in Greece, commencing the 40-day period of Great Lent for the Greek Orthodox Church.

The feast begins on the first day of the 7th week before the Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday. During the Sarakosti people refrain from eating meat, dairy or fish but they are allowed to eat seafood.

It concludes on May 3 with the Presanctified Liturgy on Friday of the Sixth Week.

The purpose of Great Lent is to prepare the faithful not only to commemorate but to enter into the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.

mediterranean diet depression
A traditional Great Lent spread. Credit: Kyriakos Persidis / Greek Reporter

Lent is not for the sake of Lent itself, as fasting is not for the sake of fasting. Rather, these are means by which and for which the individual believer prepares himself to reach for, accept and attain the calling of their Savior.

Therefore, the significance of Great Lent is highly appraised, not only by the monks who gradually increased the length of the period, but also by the lay people themselves.

The Akathist Hymn

The Akathist Hymn, which is chanted on the first five successive Fridays of Lent in the Eastern Orthodox Church, is a profound devotional poem dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The first part of the hymn (Friday, March 22) is about the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary by the Angel. It describes Mary’s surprise at the news, her visit to her mother and Joseph’s doubts as to her innocence.

The second part (Friday, March 29) is about the birth of Christ, the worship of the Shepherds and Magi, the flight to Egypt and the visit to Saint Simeon in the Temple.

In the third part (Friday, April 5) the hymn directs our attention to the renewal of the world by Christ’s coming, and the amazement of the Angels and the wise men at the sight of the Incarnation of God’s Son.

The fourth (Friday, April 12) and the last part (Friday, March 19) is once more a lyric and rhetorical praise of the Virgin Mary, whom the poet adorns with the most beautiful of adjectives, asking her to accept his poetical offering and to intercede for the salvation of the human race from earthly sin.

Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday 27-28 April 2024 

Lazarus Saturday is counted among the major feasts of the Church. It refers to the moveable feast before Palm Sunday to which it is liturgically linked. It celebrates the raising of Lazarus of Bethany. Bethany is recorded in the New Testament as a small village in Judaea, the home of the siblings Mary of Bethany, Martha, and Lazarus, as well as that of Simon the Leper.

Greek Orthodox Easter
Entry into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti. Public Domain

John’s gospel reports that “Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.”

The hymnography of the feast interprets the theological significance of the event. Accordingly, the resurrection of Lazarus is viewed as a prophecy in action. It prefigures both the resurrection of Christ, as well as the general resurrection of all the dead at the end of the age.

Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in each of the four canonical Gospels.

Palm Sunday marks the first day of Holy Week.

Holly Week 28 April-4 May 2024

This year, Orthodox Holy Week will be observed from April 28 to May 4.

In Holy Week, also called Passion Week, the church’s liturgies run for hours and hours. The gospels read in church during this time recount the Passion of Christ, the painful days that led Him to the Cross and finally to the Resurrection.

Holy Monday’s liturgy commemorates the blessed and noble Joseph and the fig tree which was cursed and withered by the Lord, followed by the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday and the Passion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. Orthodox Holy Week concludes with Christ’s death and descent into Hades. The week-long observation celebrates and honors the life of Christ.

Liturgy on the Tuesday of Holy Week commemorates the parable of the Ten Virgins. It is about the preparation of the soul and wakefulness.

On Holy Wednesday, Orthodox churches hold the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. This very ancient Liturgy is a Vesper Service held during the evening.

Holy Thursday liturgies are the most heartbreaking of all, as Jesus Christ’s betrayal is recalled, and he is led to his death at the end of the day.

Greek Easter traditions
The procession of the Epitaphios on Good Friday. Credit:  Maggas, CC BY 3.0/Wikipedia Commons

On Holy Friday, church bells throughout Greece ring mournfully all day long, and in the evening there is the Procession of the Epitaphios—a recreation of the tomb of Christ—in each parish.

On Holy Saturday, psalms are read and Resurrection hymns are sung, telling of Christ’s descent into Hades: “Today Hades cried out groaning,” the psalmist says.

Easter Sunday, May 5, 2024

Greek Orthodox Easter 2023 is on May, 5.

Orthodox Easter Day, which takes place on the Sunday after the first full moon after Passover, is a sacred season and the most significant celebration of the Eastern Christian churches or Orthodox churches.

Every Easter, Greeks thank and honor Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins, and we celebrate the miracle of the Resurrection, the rise of Jesus Christ from the dead, and the promise of an afterlife.

Related: Why Orthodox and Catholic Easter Are on Different Dates

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