Easter in Serbia

Easter is one of the most important and traditionally the happiest holiday in the Christian world, both Orthodox and Catholic. As it is well known, it celebrates the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Since the Orthodox church is counting time based on the Julian calendar, in these two traditions it is rarely celebrated on the same date (like it will be on 20th of April 2025 according to the calendar). The important thing is that the Orthodox Easter cannot be celebrated before or during the Jewish holiday Passover and never before the 4th of April and after 8th of May.

The weekend before Easter there is a holiday which is uniquely celebrated in Serbia: Vrbica - Lazarus Saturday or the Saturday of righteous Lazarus, on the eve of Palm Sunday, celebrates the raising of Lazarus of Bethany, whom Jesus Christ resurrected four days after his burial. After his resurrection, Lazarus became the bishop of Kition, on Cyprus. In Serbia, this holiday is specifically for children, so it becomes one of the happiest memories from ones childhood. At the celebration, the priest hands out consecrated willow branches to everyone and with them they all walk around the church to the tune of the hymn of Lazarus Saturday. It is tradition that for this event, parents give their children necklaces with bells and sometimes garlands along with festive clothes, sometimes brand new.

Other reasons why this holiday is particularly special for children is the tradition of painting eggs and the egg tapping competition. On the Good Friday, every family paints hard boiled eggs in different colours and with lots of motifs, such as leaves, flowers, bunnies etc. or put some stickers on them. Every house keeps one red egg, which becomes the guardian egg of the house, for the whole year, and burries one from the past year. The eggs are not eaten until the Good Sunday, when the Easter breakfast usualy gathers lots of family relatives. Other than eggs, for this breakfast are usually served some cured meat products, sometimes bread made specifically for the occasion, seasonal vegetables and other homemade delicacies. Everyone takes part in egg tapping and the „egg winner“ usualy gets a reward. Some villages or city district comunities organise such a competition during the holidays.

After the breakfast, children usually get some presents, but in a special, playful way: it is considered that the Easter Bunny is someone who gives presents by hiding them in bushes or behind the trees, so kids have to seek for them.

For those who choose to fast, the Easter Lent is the longest Lent of the year. It takes 40 days, so it is the biggest and the most important one. Usually, those who do not fast during the Lent, do it just on the Good Friday. The midnight liturgy between the Good Saturday and the Good Sunday indicates the end of the mourning for Jesuses death and - His Resurrection. On the Good Sunday everyone who respected the Lent can take part in a communion in the church. On this day, the Easter Acclamation of people is by greeting each other with first one saying “Hristos voskrese/vaskrse” (Christ is Risen) and the other one replying “Vaistinu voskrese/vasrkse” (Indeed He is Risen).

*In Vojvodina, because of cultural diversity and presence of Catholic national minorities, mostly Hungarian people, both holidays are recognized. In fact, there are some families that celebrate both Catholic and Orthodox holidays.