Orthodox Easter was celebrated across the world Sunday with a fire ceremony, roasted lamb, cakes and street processions through the streets of Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
Protestants and Roman Catholics celebrated Easter in March, according to the Gregorian calendar, to commemorate the day followers believe Jesus was resurrected more than 2,000 years ago. But Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate this week, following the older Julian calendar.
In Jerusalem, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre — built where Jesus was crucified and resurrected — priests entered a small chamber marking his tomb and emerged with “holy fire.” In a ceremony that dates back at least 1,200 years, they shared the flames with the faithful who used candles to pass it from person to person until the light filled the streets outside.
Worshipers, some carrying crosses, walked the 14 stations of the cross, along streets lined with hundreds of Israeli security forces deployed to regulate the flow of people, according to the Daily Mail.
Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem also handed the flame to delegations who took it to Orthodox churches around the world. A Greek delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Amanatidis, took it to Athens Saturday, and from there to more than a dozen locations around the country, according to Greek news outlet Kathimerini.
Fireworks are an essential part of the festivities in Greece, despite official disapproval from the Greek Orthodox Church. On the eastern Greek Aegean island of Chios, two parishes in the village of Vrontados staged a spectacular mock war with a hail of fireworks, drawing visitors from across the country, according to the Associated Press.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attended midnight Mass with thousands of people at Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the world’s largest Orthodox Church, led the three-hour service, RT reported.
In Syria, Russian soldiers and airmen celebrated Mass in a makeshift temple close to the Russian airbase in Hmeimim, Tass reported, citing the Russian Defense Ministry.
"The ringing of the Orthodox bell on the territory of the Russian air base, announcing resurrection of the Lord, was performed on the Syrian land for the first time," the ministry said.
The Russian military is helping the Syrian government led by President Bashar Assad in that country's five-year civil war.
In Ukraine, where Russia seized the province of Crimea in 2014 and continues to back an insurgency that occupies much of two other eastern provinces, the economics ministry said baking Easter cakes at home this year would cost 33.9% more than in 2015.
Still, Ukrainian faithful flocked to Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev to consecrate cakes and intricately painted eggs, while children dressed in colorful national costumes.
In Washington, President Obama issued a statement offering support to members of the Orthodox faith “who have been persecuted for their faith and subjected to unspeakable acts of violence.”