While Brooklyn parishioners from Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights to Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene dye eggs and festoon hats in preparation for Easter next Sunday, March 23, thousands of Eastern Orthodox families must wait another five weeks to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Eastern Orthodox Christians from churches like the Sts. Constantine and Helen Cathedral on Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn won’t celebrate Easter this year until April 27.
Why the five-week gap?
It’s complicated, but it boils down to one thing: as with the Jewish holidays, the scheduling of Easter is tied to the lunar calendar.
More precisely, in Eastern Orthodox churches, Easter must fall on the Sunday after the first full moon following both the spring equinox and Passover.
In the West, the Catholic and Protestant churches, which split with the Eastern Orthodox churches in the 11th century, celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
The church one belongs to is largely based on the geography of one’s ancestors. Eastern Orthodox Christians typically originate in Eastern Europe, Greece and Russia. Catholics and Protestants typically come from Western Europe.
All differences aside, the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant celebrations of Easter bear much in common.
First: they’re both celebrating a belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Second: the boiled egg.
While Catholics and Protestants paint pastel eggs and hide them in the shrubs for their children to find, Eastern Orthodox Christians dye their boiled eggs red on the Thursday before Easter. The red is said to have originated with Mary Magdalene, who, according to legend, gave a red egg to a Roman Emperor.
Following the Sunday service, Eastern Orthodoz families crack the eggs together in a sort of competition.
Whoever manages to maintain the last un-cracked egg wins a prize (an intangible one, of course): a special blessing that is supposed to last all year long.