EASTER AROUND THE WORLD
As Easter draws near, I can’t help but reminisce about my Easter memories. Birds chirping, cool breeze, girls showing up to church in floral dresses and boys with pastel ties. I think about the somber Maundy Thursday prayer services turning into the songs of celebration on Sunday morning.
But what does Easter look like in places where the name of Jesus isn’t spoken; at least not in the way it’s spoken in my life? What does it look like for missionaries serving in different cultures which may be saturated with different beliefs?
For Global Partners missionaries Allan and Sheri Stevens serving in Albania, the majority of people are Muslim, mixed in with Catholic and Orthodox minorities. They said most everyone is aware of Easter and that Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead, but they don’t seem to understand what that means.
The Stevens’ explained that Orthodox believers and Catholics make red Easter eggs and give them out to friends; many keep them for good luck. In their primarily Catholic neighborhood, kids go from house to house collecting eggs like trick-or-treating. In the Orthodox church a town over, they hold a parade carrying something similar to a decorated bed, representing Christ’s tomb.
“Many American traditions associated with Easter … are not part of the celebrations at our church,” Allan and Sheri said. “There’s typically a quiet Good Friday service with communion and a simple church service on Sunday.”
This lack of “extras,” however, does push them to focus on the resurrection, they added.
Missionaries Sarah and Matt serve in Macedonia. They said almost everyone claims Christianity there, but less than one percent have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Most Easter traditions are centered around superstition, such as the custom where children are bathed with a dyed Easter egg for health and good luck.
While living in this type of culture can be challenging, Sarah said these customs can open doors to talk about the Truth of the Gospel message.
Kerensa and Jason McFrederick are missionaries serving in the Czech Republic. Living in a mostly
atheistic country for 17 years, Kerensa said they are used to the unique ways many Czechs celebrate Easter.
“One unique tradition is when boys (& sometimes men) lightly whip girls with braided willow twigs called Pomlázky while chanting a rhyme requesting eggs from the girls in return. It is said to bring health and fertility to those whipped,” Kerensa explained.
As believers, Kerensa said they gather for resurrection
worship on Sunday and on the recognized state holiday, Easter Monday, they go with friends for long walks and picnics.
As you continue to prepare your minds and hearts for Easter, I encourage you to think of those who are serving among people who don’t know or truly understand what we are celebrating. We pray that they too will experience the new life which is promised through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.