Learning how different world religions celebrate their holidays is a great way to encourage cultural awareness in kids. An easy way to introduce kids to festivals and holy days is through books or simple activities like crafts and food. Today I will give you tons of great resources to learn about Pascha: Pascha is the most important holidays for the Eastern Orthodox religion! Learn about this holiday with a beautiful book, and some crafts.
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The Eastern Orthodox church is the 2nd largest Christian church on earth, with over 250 million members! Many Orthodox churches base their Easter date on the Julian calendar, which often differs from the Gregorian calendar that is used by many western countries. The most important holiday in the Orthodox Church is the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, called Pascha (Easter).
I asked my friend, whose husband is an Orthodox priest, how they celebrate in their families:
We celebrate Easter with the midnight service the Saturday night before Easter (Pascha) beginning at 11 PM. We stay up for the next few hours during liturgy where we enter a dark church which is later filled with candlelight. The candle is first received from the priest and then all of the faithful light their candles from that one candle singing the hymn, “Come receive the light from the light that is never overtaken by night. Come, glorify Christ risen from the dead.” After the long (but most joyful) service ends, we break the fast together. Everybody brings large baskets of food and breaks bread together in the church hall. Of course, we continue with celebrating with family and friends after a good nights sleep.
(PS- check out my friend’s Palestinian stuffed grape leaves!!! YUM).
Catherine’s Pascha: A Celebration of Easter in the Orthodox Church by Charlotte Riggle is a beautiful book about the faces, customs, traditions of the Orthodox Church. It’s Pascha (Easter) and two little girls are trying to stay awake all night for the traditional service. Catherine (with her friend, who happens to be in a wheelchair) is nervous that she won’t be able to stay awake, or remember to say “Christ is risen!” in Russian. The excitement of playing with the candles, smashing the hard-boiled eggs, and eating traditional sweets gives us a glimpse into the customs of the Orthodox Easter celebration.
Not only is it a beautiful story, on every page, you will find pictures of orthodox cathedrals from around the world! The pictures include cathedrals in Russia, Japan, US, Jerusalem, Guatemala, Greece, Cairo, Brazil, Tanzania, Thailand, Australia, Ethiopia… even Antarctica!!! I love that it teaches kids about the widespread diaspora of the Eastern Orthodox faith.
One cultural aspect you’ll notice is that the Paschal liturgy in Catherine’s Pascha is in the middle of the night. In the Orthodox calendar, the day starts at sunset. Also, the Resurrection occurred in the middle of the night. You can see in the book that from a child’s perspective, it is hard to stay awake the whole service! The first Paschal liturgy is held early in the day on Holy Saturday. Shortly before midnight, they return to the Church. Later, the sunrise service, begins, and the church celebrates the Resurrection at sunrise.
Pascha is the most important day of the year, and the biggest celebration in the Orthodox Church. At the author’s (Charlotte Riggle) web site, you will find recipes, history of the churches, activity sheets, study guides. Here are some incredible projects kids can make for Pascha, plus specific traditions for certain countries: