The difference most people are familiar with is that Western Churches and Eastern Orthodox Churches don’t always celebrate Easter on the same date. This year the Western Church celebrated Easter on April 5 while the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates it on April 12.
“It’s the big difference and it’s based on two calendars,” Melackrinos said.
Easter in both churches always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring, but Western Churches follow the Gregorian calendar and Eastern Orthodox follow the Julian calendar.
“Easter in the Greek Orthodox Church is also always after Passover,” Melackrinos said. “The word Pascha (Easter) comes from the Greek word for Passover.”
The churches follow similar Holy Weeks leading up to Easter, there’s the Last Supper and Good Friday but the Greek Orthodox Church marks those events after sundown.
The other big difference is in the role music plays in services.
“Music is the backbone of everything we do,” Melackrinos said.
The Greek Orthodox Church chants the majority of the service and Melackrinos said people come to expect certain hymns.
“Christ has risen is sung over and over again,” Melackrinos said. “It’s an amazing moment, marking the realization that Easter is here. The church is dark except for one candle until that moment when everyone sings and raises up their candles, that’s the big moment.”
There is also food involved in both Easter celebrations.
Easter eggs play a role in Greek Orthodox celebrations but the eggs are red for the blood of Christ and, of course, there is lamb.
“Lamb on the spit, that’s the big tradition,” Melackrinos said.
The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Easter on Sunday, April 12. For more information on Easter and services at the Cathedral of St. Paul: stpaulhempstead.org