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Fasika: The Easter In The East

April 13, 2015

Fasika, or the Ethiopian Easter, sparks a vitalizing conversation on the culture and traditions celebrated by the immensely spiritual people of Ethiopia. Fasika is celebrated approximately one to two weeks after Easter in the Western calendar at Orthodox Churches across the world. There are many unique and holy traditions that the Ethiopian culture embraces during Fasika in order to bring light to the tragic and glorious events that led to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I talked with Hiruyan Kesis Melaku Terefe, an Ethiopian Priest at the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church, about the traditions celebrated on and around Fasika. Hiruyan Kesis Melaku Terefe detailed the basics of this special holiday, including how Fasika is considered a Movable Feast, how the Ethiopian Orthodox culture celebrates the holiday, and the reasons that this celebration differs from the Easter celebration within Western culture.

When does Ethiopian Easter fall?

Every four years we will celebrate Easter on the same day as the Western calendar because of a certain calculation. Easter is considered a Movable Feast, meaning it is not fixed to a specific calendar date every year. There is a calculation according to the church calendar, but there is a difference in this calculation between the eastern and western church calendar, as well as other orthodox countries. Our Easter is not a fixed holiday; for us the main reason is because of it being a Movable Feast. So when we calculate the date of Fasika every year, we will celebrate one or two weeks after the Western church.

Why does it occur this way?

In our church we have Methodic calculation, and according to that calculation we are following the way of the moon and the sun. The difference between the Gregorian calendar and the Eastern Orthodox calendar is we calculate the calendar of the Sun. We have to celebrate Easter around the Passover.

In what ways do you celebrate Fasika?

Easter is the climax of the lame season. For more than 55 days, it is considered to be the “lame season” before Easter and also before Passion Week. Passion week is where we remember the passing of Jesus Christ. During this week, we don’t wear white, we don’t light candles, everything is dark. Even our singing is a sad melody during Passion Week. Then on Easter Sunday it is joyful. We remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some people do not eat for almost two days, including the Friday and Saturday before Easter Sunday. They will fast during this time to acknowledge the time that Jesus was within the tomb. We then begin the Fasika celebration with a church service starting on Saturday at 7p.m. and ending on Easter Sunday at 1a.m. We light candles, we sing famous songs, we pray together, and we conclude with even more celebration and togetherness.

The celebration of Fasika within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church truly embraces every emotion that Jesus Christ experienced while being led to the tomb and rising from it just a short while later. There is a great amount of soul and genuine love exemplified through the celebration that the Ethiopian people devote to Jesus Christ during Fasika. It is a spirit that carries on throughout the entirety of the year and emits from each member of their church.


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