Coptic and Ethiopian Easter Date in the current year: May 5, 2024

Coptic and Ethiopian Easter The majority of Orthodox churches use the Julian calendar or the Revised Julian calendar for calculating movable feasts. They include Oriental Orthodox churches such as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Therefore, Easter in Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea coincides with Easter in many Eastern European countries.

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is based in Egypt, Northeast Africa, and the Middle East. It has about 18 million members worldwide, of which about 14 million live in Egypt. Although Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, it has a relatively large Christian community, so Coptic Easter Sunday is a public holiday here.

Members of the Coptic Orthodox Church start celebrating Easter on Holy Saturday evening, when the Easter Vigil begins. The Vigil is held between the sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Sunday morning. All prayers are read in Coptic and Arabic.

The Vigil is followed by a feast to break the fast. Many of the dishes served at the feast are the same as those that Egyptian Muslims serve during Eid al-Adha (the Sacrifice Feast). They include meat, fatteh (flatbread with rice, meat and sauce) and homemade pastries. Another tradition shared by Egyptian Christians and Muslims is buying new clothes for their respective big holidays.

By the way, the Monday after Easter is also a public holiday in Egypt. Despite its Easter-related date, Sham el-Nessim is a secular holiday celebrated by people of different faiths. On this day, Egyptians celebrate the arrival of spring and enjoy the good weather outdoors.

In Ethiopia and Eritrea, Easter is known as Fasika or Tensae. In these countries, Easter is considered a much more important festival than Christmas, since the death and resurrection of Christ are more significant in Orthodox theology than his birth.

Like in most Christian churches, the feast of Easter in Ethiopia and Eritrea is preceded by Lent. The Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches have the longest Lent, lasting for 55 continuous days. During fasting (tsome), Ethiopian and Eritrean devotees abstain from animal products and refrain from eating or drinking before 3 pm. Some people may abstain from the consumption of alcohol and sexual activity.

Preparations for Easter begin on Good Friday, which is an official non-working day in Ethiopia and Eritrea, but it is the Easter Vigil on Saturday night that is the key event of the holiday. In Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Christianity, the Vigil is a somber occasion, yet it includes singing and dancing until the wee hours of the morning.

At midnight, a chicken is slaughtered as a symbolic sacrifice. Another sacrifice is made in the morning after the Vigil, when a sheep is killed to remind of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. After that, people start feasting and celebrating. During the celebration, the faithful have a chance to release enjoyment after the long period of fasting and repentance. They have a festive meal and drink tej (honey wine) and tella (home-brewed beer).

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Coptic Easter, Ethiopian Easter, Eritrean Easter, Orthodox Easter, Fasika, religious holidays