Friday, March 19, 2010

Orthodox Easter Traditions

Helen Kohut Capron grew up across the alley from Holy Transfiguration Cathedral and had fond memories of traditions during Lent and Holy Week. Helen elaborated on Lenten practices. “For seven weeks, no meat and no dairy (butter, milk or eggs) were allowed, and there were a number of extra church services in each week culminating with Holy Week.
"On Good Friday, there were three services. One in the morning and one at three o’clock where people fixed the grave. Friday evening was a burial service, “Plashtanitza,” that featured a shroud with the figure of Jesus on it and flowers all around it.”
“There was a service on Saturday morning more like the resurrection, when all the purple fabric that covered everything during Lent was removed and the priest changed into white vestments. On Saturday night, they would do part of the service, and then everyone left the church with the priest and his servers, who circled the church three times. During that time, people inside the church took the grave away and put everything back in place. When the priest made his third circle, he came to the door and knocked and that was a symbol of the resurrection. Then the people went in to begin the Liturgy, the Easter Mass. So the Easter vigil service began at about 11:30 at night and continued until about 2 in the morning.”
“It was always the custom to bless the food people had prepared for Easter. And so people would bring their baskets of food to the church hall. It was always a big deal because, if you had fasted like you were supposed to during Lent, with no meat and no dairy, it was very special. Sausage, eggs, fruit, ham, butter cakes - everything you could think of was in those baskets. Our family had a big wire basket and it would take two men to carry it across the alley, it would be so full. The baskets would all be in the church hall and, right after church, the priest would bless them. Then people would go to their homes. Nowadays, people sometimes partake of the baskets right after the blessing and go home about 5 o’clock in the morning. On Easter morning itself, there was a short service right after the Liturgy about 11 or 11:30.”
For current Lenten and Easter services at Holy Transfiguration Cathedral, visit

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