RALEIGH — About that Easter feast, the remnants of which now clog your refrigerator: Dont mention it to your Christian orthodox friends.
The disciplined faithful have endured 40 days without eating meat, but theyd prefer as few temptations as possible until they celebrate Jesus resurrection on Sunday.
Its hard hearing others talk about their Easter feasts, but its also humbling, said Toula Capetanos, of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox in Raleigh. This holiday isnt about food or worldly luxuries. Its about an authentic experience and remembering the struggles Christ endured for us.
Authenticity is a trait prized in orthodox churches.
Their observance of Easter is a prime example. Unlike mainstream Christian churches which celebrate Easter in accordance with the Western or Gregorian calendar, most orthodox churches observe the Julian calendar.
The Julian calendar was established in 46 B.C. and was used by the First Council of Nicaea in 325 to set the first Easter.
The alternate calendar is just one of the many practices attractive to converts like Sydney Langford, a former Presbyterian, who want a richer Easter experience.
It feels more meaningful, said Langford, who came to Holy Trinity 10 years ago. (Mainstream) churches have a lot of fanfare. And so do we, but it lasts longer than one day.
What orthodox churches lack in traditional American pageantry egg hunts, pastels, chocolate, etc. they make up for in deep-rooted ritual.
Holy Trinity and other Greek Orthodox churches hold services every night the week before Easter. A different scene from Christs journey is highlighted each night, and Christs suffering is mentioned as much as his triumph over death. Until Saturday night, the sermons and singing take somber tones. The only eggs painted are those colored red to symbolize the passion.
Understanding grace means understanding what Jesus went through, Father Paul Christy said. People want to experience the joy and the pain because, somehow, going through those emotions together makes us better people.
Holy Trinitys Easter celebration will start with a service beginning at 10:45 p.m. Saturday.
The church members will gather in near-pitch darkness.
As midnight approaches, Father Christy will light a single candle. Then, hell say, Xristos Anesti (Greek for Christ is Risen) and all at once, church members will light their own candle, filling the Mediterranean-blue room with light.
There will be no electricity. No musical instruments. Just family, the light of God, and the Holy Spirity, Christy said.
The stark contrast of darkness and light come together ... making for the most beautiful sight Ive ever seen, Christy says.
Afterward, around 2 a.m. Sunday, parishioners will return home for a traditional dinner or theyll go to the nearest iHop to celebrate, says Toula Capetanos of Raleigh. We wont have chocolate bunnies or anything like that. We dont want to mask the importance of Christs sacrifice, she said. But well share meals as a family because strengthening Christs family is of utmost importance.
Whatever they eat to celebrate Easter, it wouldnt mean as much without the fasting, the mourning, and the ritual, Father Christy says.
Then, it wouldnt be about Christ, he said. It would be about us.