Orthodox Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday celebrations are more common within the Orthodox Church than other churches of Christianity. It is a day reserved for Easter preparation, including spiritual preparation and reflection, while waiting for Easter Sunday. Some congregations will receive Holy Communion on this day.
A typical Holy Saturday service consists of the Easter Vigil, which starts at midnight, right at the start of Easter Sunday, but it is still considered a Holy Saturday tradition. The service is given at night in the dark in order to symbolize the darkness of Jesus’s tomb. Then, when singing, candles are lit, and often the priest and observers will hold lit candles as well. The candles stand for hope and Jesus’s resurrection. Tradition of the Easter Vigil survives in ancient manuscripts, making it one of the oldest and most significant liturgy services in the Orthodox faith.
An important symbol of Holy Saturday is the tomb, which is often recreated inside or outside of the church. Rather than being a symbol of death, Christ’s resurrection means that the tomb is a symbol of joy and life instead.
In Jerusalem, Orthodox Christians will gather at Jesus’s believed burial place, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The ceremony of the Holy Fire, which is televised internationally, takes place there. It is considered by members of the faith as a miracle, believing that the fire starts every year at the same time. During the broadcast, a liturgy is performed.
Observers in Greece crowd to churches long before the service, following the holiday’s theme of anticipation. They may carry candles and set off fireworks. At midnight, the church bells ring and leaders announce Christ’s resurrection.
Orthodox Christians in Lebanon go to seven churches on this day to receive blessings at each one. At night, some may leave bread in trees, considering it blessed by Christ’s resurrection. The next day, observers may eat the dough or store it with other food to spread the blessing.