McWhorter ‘Meeting the Easter’ in Georgia
International Easter Celebrations
All the Lenten season is a holy time in the Republic of Georgia, writes A/Captain Sherry McWhorter. Many people adhere to the strict rules of fasting and prayer throughout the 40-day period. Beginning with Palm Sunday, Christians enter the solemn period of Holy Week with a regimen of eating only bread and water, reading the Bible, and attending church services daily. On Saturday, everyone goes to confession to prepare for the high communion service on Easter Day.
At midnight, a huge celebration begins; the sacred icons are paraded throughout the church and around the outside, with all the congregation marching around the church seven times. This celebration is called “meeting the Easter” and corresponds to the old Jewish custom of welcoming the Sabbath. Emotions run high at this peak of the Christian year.
Instead of the multicolored eggs of the West or the intricately lacquered eggs of the Ukraine, Georgians dye all eggs red, symbolizing the blood of Christ. Outside of church, all celebrations are family oriented, culminating in their memorial day on Easter Monday. On that day, families take red eggs, mandarin oranges, wine, and paschal cakes to the cemeteries and have a feast around the graves of loved ones.
The Salvation Army in Georgia incorporates the cultural traditions as much as possible within the context of our own theology. The corps is adorned by myrtle branches (instead of palm branches) on Palm Sunday, red eggs on Easter, and ia (violets) instead of lilies. Good Friday services commemorate the crucifixion, focusing on prayer and penitence. And then the explosion of joy of Easter Sunday…a wonderful day in the life of Georgian Christians.
The church has suffered much in Georgia over the years of Communist oppression, but the Spirit has remained strong, and the Easter season demonstrates the bedrock faith of this struggling people.