Easter: Everything You Need To Knowcairo Celebration Christian Christianity Coptic Orthodox Easter egypt Palm Sunday
Around 15-20 per cent of Egypt’s population follow the Christian faith, most of whom are Coptic Orthodox. In the Egyptian spirit, most big Christian holidays are celebrated widely with the same enthusiasm that Ramadan and Eid. However, sometimes, there is confusion from the non-Christian majority regarding those holidays and what exactly they celebrate.
This is the case for Easter since it falls at the same time of the year as Sham El-Naseem, leading some people to think they’re interchangeable or that they’re the same holiday with two different names.
We will not delve into Sham El-Naseem for now; we’ll only clarify the most important difference: Sham El-Naseem is a secular, national holiday, and Easter is a religious, strictly Christian festival.
So what does Easter actually commemorate?
Easter is one of the oldest Christian festivals and commemorates one of the central tenets of the Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his crucifixion at the hands of Roman authorities. As it is across different Christian churches and sects, the entire week of Easter is holy to the Coptic Church.
The Holy Week
The week leading up to Easter, The Holy Week is the final week of The Great Lent fast that lasts for 55 days in the Coptic Church. It starts with Palm Sunday, a day that commemorates Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem to observe the Jewish Holiday of Passover. Maundy Thursday is the next significant day of the week and commemorates Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. Then Good Friday, also known as Sad Friday, is when Christians remember the death of Jesus Christ. Lastly, Holy Saturday or Easter Vigil, the eve of Easter, marks the final day of Jesus’ death and Christian religious observance that ends the Lenten season.
Easter Sunday, also known as Resurrection Sunday, is when Jesus Christ rose from the dead. According to the Gospel of John in the New Testament, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb where Jesus was buried and found it empty. Then, an angel told her that Jesus had risen.
Easter is one of Christianity’s most important holidays (the word here is used more in its original sense, ‘holy days’, not just in the ‘free days’ sense) and is the most theologically significant. In the Christian belief, it proves the divinity of Jesus Christ and that, through faith, those who follow Jesus are spiritually resurrected so that they may walk a new life and receive eternal salvation.
How do Coptic Christians Celebrate it?
Celebrations start on Holy Saturday, when they gather in the church for mass, following which they will break their great fast. The Easter Eve ceremony includes psalms, hymns, and prayers in Coptic and Arabic. It also features a symbolic reenactment of the resurrection, called ‘resurrection play’. On Sunday, Coptic Christians prepare feasts similar to those Muslims do for the first day of Ramadan or Eid.
When Does Easter Fall?
In 2022, Easter will fall on April 24. You might have noticed that Catholic Christians (among other sects) already celebrated Easter on April 17. Generally speaking, Easter is a moveable feast, which means it doesn’t take place on the same day every year. And, just like Orthodox and Catholic Christmases, there is nearly a week difference in celebration.
This goes back to the Eastern Orthodox Churches using the Julian Calendar, unlike most of the Western world that uses the Gregorian Calendar.
Otherwise, the Eastern Orthodox Church always sticks to Easter being celebrated after the Jewish holiday of Passover, since the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ took place after he entered Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Following the Hebrew calendar, Passover started on April 15 and will end on April 23.