Why Do Christians Celebrate Catholic and Orthodox Easter On Different Occasions?

thorn crown crucifixion Orthodox easter
Images: Pixabay

Why is Orthodox Easter celebrated at a different date than Catholic Easter? Well, it is almost impossible to grasp the intricacies of a two-thousand-year-old religion, especially when there is so much controversy around it. There is an ocean of written information for those interested in more profound diggings, but I will attempt a simplified explanation.

Christianity is not the first monotheistic religion. Allegedly, Zoroastrianism seems to be about 12.000 years old and has lasted a few thousand years (even until today in some areas).

In contrast, Akhenaten’s attempt to impose a monotheistic religion by instating Ra as the sun god and the creator of the universe in ancient Egypt did not last after the pharaoh’s demise.

Of course, all the history we know is based on the writings left by our ancestors. But where there was no alphabet or the form of writing is so old that it is impossible to decipher, the wisdom perpetuated orally is largely ignored. However, the knowledge of it has survived to our times (see Zalmoxianism).

Contempt seems to have survived better since today people still call the old polytheistic religious beliefs “paganism”. What if suddenly a new polytheistic religion emerges? What would the current ones be called then? I am not worried at all. We are sarcastic and bully enough species, able to find an equally scornful label!

Christianity is a monotheistic religion that followed the polytheistic ones after the ancient Greek and later Roman Empire’s demise.

From his star, the God we have known of for thousands of years must have a great view over his creation. He surely sees us squirming on a tiny planet, taking for granted a worry-free life, often putting everything we do on his shoulders (“It was God’s will!”) and begging for help and forgiveness when it gets tough.

Most likely, humans are not his only creation; if God does not answer every individual call, it might be because he’s busy contemplating others, on other planets, in different universes, also his work. Probably. Some of us accept this based on the current religious norms.

Spirituality and religion are different concepts. One has more to do with philosophy and inner, personal beliefs, while the other is a set of established dogmas, canons, etc. Does a deity or another impose religions on people? No. It is an efficient human attempt to control and manipulate large masses.

One’s connection with spirituality should have more to do with love and compassion than with fear that this or that will happen to you if you do or don’t do this or that as imposed by some humans. Hence each village on this planet has a different understanding, traditions and practices of the same belief.

Historically, armies of soldiers killed their fellow humans and sacrificed their lives in wars for millennia. If faith is all about love and compassion, I doubt any god has ever explicitly told anyone, “You must kill your fellow humans so that this or that king gains more power!” Yet, so many wars started on religious grounds by humans.

A ruler with more imagination and persuasive power would have easily won as his army would sacrifice lured by a promise of endless happiness or threatened by a fear of eternal damnation. In essence, GREED was and still is the real winner, a whim is a real motive, and manipulation is the effective delivery method.

It is all reduced to superb control skills, practised and mastered over millennia. Crash the real connection with the individual’s spirit and dominate by instilling irrational fear of the unknown.

One law governs the world beyond any physical law known to humans. It is called love. It has a funny way of healing, appeasing, pacifying.

love, bible Catholic vs Orthodox  easter

Jesus mentioned it repeatedly, but the Romans were afraid this law based on human emotion would undermine their position of political power. So, they barbarically killed a man who did not wrong anyone.

Some three centuries later, emperor Constantin I (another Roman holding the reins of power) repented after killing left and right, including his wife and eldest son, and imposed an old-new state religion on remorse.

Almost from the start, the new (old) religion has known rifts based on doctrine; the East and the West (Rome and Constantinople) have had a hard time agreeing on many aspects, including calendars. But still managed to put together a set of rules that make a state religion. Made by humans. God has no religion!

Fast forward another seven centuries; a so-called great schism fractured Christianity during the dark ages. Constantinople and Rome finally separated. A thousand years old Roman Empire reached an end.

The two main branches of Christianity (the Catholic and Orthodox Church respectively) based their separate calendars on the lunar, respectively solar-lunar cycle on their division. 

Hence, we celebrate Easter on different occasions, typically at a week’s distance.

2021 saw the longest distance I could remember. The Orthodox celebrated Easter about a month after the Western Easter. It is difficult to call it Catholic Easter since the Western Christian religion is also subdivided (does Henry VIII, for instance, breaking with Rome on love whims sound a bell?)

In 2022, the Orthodox Easter will be celebrated in Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Georgia, Ukraine (if the war will end by then to allow any celebrations at all!), Russia (largely brainwashed by bolshevik propaganda and unaware of its invasion of a sovereign neighbouring country!) and some parts of the Middle East and Africa on the 24th of April. The rest of the Christians will have had already observed it on the 17th of April.

Given the war in Ukraine, there is one thing I want to mention to underline the gap between religion and spirituality. The Russian Orthodox church’s highest in command agrees with his country’s war and killing of the children in Ukraine. That is not because his religion tells him something, but because his position of power depends on how much he agrees to his tyrant president.

In his desperate clinging to power and wealth, the patriarch bends to political power hoping his position will be saved. Given Russia’s history and the mingling of religion in state business for over a thousand years, he’ll probably get the exact opposite, so all his attempts to save his place at the expense of killed children will only count when he meets his maker.

Since we celebrate twice, perhaps it is a good idea to take a minute and give some thought to the beginnings of this religion, its spread and division, its complicated history and the meaning of believing in something not always easy to conceptualise. And also, do what we do best on holidays: splash cash on commercial goods and gorge on food! We are what we are.

At least, on the Orthodox Easter Sunday, the Romanians still greet each other with the acceptance of the only known miracle performed by a man: “Christ has risen!” And the reply still is: “In truth, he has risen!” before we wish each other a “Happy Easter!” and share red painted eggs and cozonac! All of these are old, thousand of years old customs that are gradually dwindling in the robotic era.

Other nations in the Balkans probably keep the same traditions. Still! Given the hallucinating speed of life the modern world is witnessing, traditions, history, beliefs, and everything else some of us still cling to might become just a thing of the past.

This was the hardest post to write. Honestly! Next time I’ll stick with chocolate bunnies – a lot less demoralising and thorny!

Sources: Historia, Britannica, World Library.

Why Do Christians Celebrate Catholic and Orthodox Easter On Different Occasions?

The World Is An Oyster

Working as a journalist during university was pretty exciting. But landing a cruise ship job barely a year in my new graduate career was something else! Overnight, I moved from an already exhilarating job to an even better one. One that would allow me to wake up every morning in a different country. What more can a twenty-something wish for? The fact that I was fluent in a few languages helped. It made it easier to obtain the position I was seeking at the Shore Excursions department. Apart from dispatching tours in the morning and selling tickets in the evening, I would spend nearly every day on different trips. I did this a few years, spending half a year onboard and about two months at home. I enjoyed it immensely. I met fascinating people from all over the Globe and collected memories to last me a lifetime. Not to mention that I received a salary for seeing all those magnificent places the Earth has to offer! In an ideal world, everybody should live as they want. For me, that would translate into travel, then travel some more and keep travelling!

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42 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing this post. As we prepare to celebrate Easter let’s keep in mind the reason is all that Jesus did on Good Friday and His Resurrection on the third day. Great post. 🤗

    Pastor Natalie (ExamineThisMoment)

  2. Dragana says:

    One Orthodox Christian here! It is nice to see someone tries to explain these things. Because many people that I meet never heard about this. We also celebrate Christmas on a different date – January 7th. I would love to add that Romanians, Greek, and Bulgarians are Orthodox but they celebrate Christmas with Catholics and Easter with Orthodox!
    And one more thing – this year our Easter is on April 24th, not the 27th 🙂

  3. This is interesting, didn’t a lot about it before, and now reading your post. I can say that I learned new things. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Thank you for this infomation

  5. Cindy L says:

    Being Catholic Easter was always a big deal for us. We would give up meat on Fridays, fast on the day of Jesus’s crucifixion and we wouldn’t eat any junk food during lent. While we still had a visit from the Easter bunny, Easter was centered around Christ and his sacrifice to save us all. This was an interesting read, as I didn’t know there were two religious ways to celebrate Easter.

  6. Teala says:

    Interesting article.

  7. Grace This Place says:

    I was raised not celebrating any holidays but thanksgiving! This was such an interesting read!

  8. Jeanine says:

    This is fascinating & very deep reading, your posts always make me think which I love. Whilst I grew up within the Catholic religion, I am a pagan & celebrate the equinox, though my children & grandchildren are all in it for the Panettone & Chocolate eggs…

  9. Charity says:

    This was such great information, I did not know all this. Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Lisa says:

    I can imagine this was a tough post to write! You have a lot of historical background, so must have had to do a lot of research. Love God, love people, and thanks for the interesting post!

    • It was tough to write it, Lysa because I don’t want to hurt anyone reading it (it is not our fault things are the way they are). Still, on the other hand, I can’t ignore the horrible greed that guides the rich and entitled to rule as they please and protect their interests exclusively and step on bodies to do so because they are entitled. It is a twisted world for too many, unfortunately:(

  11. Daniel Ng says:

    Wow. Such detailed writing on the differentiation between the two.

  12. Jen says:

    It is interesting to know about orthodox easter, I am catholic and only know one easter.

  13. Joanna says:

    I always learn so much from your thoughtful posts. This one is not an exception. Since I am definitely more of a spiritual rather than religious person, I never searched for the reasons why there is this discrepancy. After all, the dates are only set by people and oftentimes coming traducing actual historical evidence. Just like with birth of the historical person named Jesus. When going by astronomical signs of the supposed comet leading the three kings, he would have been born in June and not in December. But, since December coincided with other traditions like the Roman Saturnalia, the church decided that he was born on December. Go figure!

  14. Thank you for the simplified explanation. I noticed that Macedonia was not on your list of countries that celebrate Orthodox Easter. In our household, we get three Easters because my husband is pagan and celebrates Easter on the Equinox. We have a lot of celebrating between March and April, sometimes May too, like this year, lol!

  15. Leah says:

    This is so interesting to me! So I’m Protestant and my sister is Catholic so I get most of my Catholic knowledge from her. She told me that all Catholics around the world have the same mass message each day/service. I wonder how that plays out with two different Easter dates? Here in the US, we celebrated Easter on the same day. I can definitely see why this would be your hardest post. There’s so much history to dive into!

    • It is the main branches – catholic and orthodox – that observe a difference according to the Gregorian/Julian calendars. What really bugs me is the division within the same religion and the deeper one within the two branches created by dogma, which is purely human incapacity to agree on things. Everything has to serve an interest, that’s the problem!

  16. Isuru says:

    Thank you for this great post. I always love your writing style in all your posts. Keep up the great work. Also I learned a lot, as I didn’t realize Easter was celebrated in different ways.

  17. Anwuli says:

    This was a detailed explanation. The dates sometimes confuse me especially mothers day.
    Thanks for sharing

  18. Gabriela Herrera says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I had no idea about the different Easters. In Mexico we do not celebrate Easter. No eggs, no bunny no baskets. Thank you so much for such valuable information.

  19. Jeannie says:

    Interesting! its good addition of information I only am aware of catholic easter.

  20. I love reading about the history of different celebrations. I never really paid attention to Easter being celebrated at different times during the year.

  21. Patrice says:

    I didn’t know the story about the two Easters! Thanks for all your research and for presenting everything in an easy-to-read manner.

  22. Nora says:

    Wow! This is so interesting! Didn’t know those details! Thank you so much!

  23. I didn’t even know that there are two kinds of Easter! Now I know. It is crazy to me how humans started Christianity after Jesus, and the apostles were gone. Easter is celebrated in so many different ways, and it has lost its true meaning. I love how you guys greet each other in Romania on Easter day; I love how you say Christ has risen to each other. It emphasizes the true meaning of Easter that Christ is risen to save the world.
    Thanks for sharing this post, you did a great job researching it, and it opened my eyes.

  24. julia says:

    Wow – this was interesting. I understood some of this before, the fact that Easter is celebrated at slightly different times but hadn’t really understood the reasons why. I’ve even read about the split of Rome and Constantinople before and not quite appreciated this difference in where Easter falls. Thank you for the enlightenment.

  25. Andra says:

    Thanks for writing this, it is indeed demoralising when you start looking at some parts of history. Some traditions will definitely become a thing of the past, but hopefully making Cozonac will stay :D.

  26. Freya says:

    Such a fascinating article! I hadn’t thought about why Easter was celebrated in different ways, thank you!

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