From Greece to Russia, Orthodox Christians around the world are preparing to celebrate Easter Sunday. While many Christians celebrated Easter on March 27 based on the Gregorian calendar, for Orthodox followers who use the Julian calendar the date falls much later this year.
Orthodox Easter also commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and shares similarities with Western Christian celebrations. Unique traditions from colorful eggs to palm fronds mark the holiday, which some refer to as Pascha from the Greek transliteration.
The large celebrations and prayers take place across Orthodox churches after the end of Lent to mark the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven. There are approximately 200 million to 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world, with large followings in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
In the streets of Kiev, Ukraine, traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs, known as pysanky, are on display for the holiday. Outside of beautiful, decorative eggs, it is traditional for eggs to be dyed red to symbolize the life and the blood of Jesus Christ. It is common for people to also play games with eggs, banging them against each other. Whoever ends up with the noncracked egg is supposed to have luck for the coming year. Many worshippers also bring baskets full of food and special breads to church Easter Sunday to be blessed.
Thousands of people visit Jerusalem every year to take part in Holy Week ceremonies and processions from Palm Sunday until Easter. It is traditional for palm fronds or pussy willow branches to be given out and blessed at church services on Palm Sunday.
On Good Friday, Orthodox Christians from around the world gather on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem to mark the path Jesus Christ took on the way to his crucifixion. Many participants carry large wooden crosses to commemorate the event.
Next year the Gregorian and Julian calendars align and Easter will fall on April 16 for both Orthodox and Western Christian churches.