Holy Week is a celebratory time that brings much joy and planning. It’s preceded by a season of Lent—a 40-day period of fasting and repentance, which is followed by a 50-day Easter season that stretches from Easter to Pentecost.
Holy Week is celebrated all around the world in the month of April. It begins on Palm Sunday culminating a week later on Easter Sunday. This is arguably the most important time on the Christian calendar with the death and resurrection of Jesus. So, we are taking a journey through some of the different areas around the world to learn more about how they celebrate Holy week.
Holy Week In Kenya
There are close to 70 million Christians living in Africa today. In Kenya, Holy Week is an important time to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and a colorful occasion that includes Good Friday street processions with recreations of the Stations of the Cross among other things.
Some Christians in Kenya attend church service every day for four days, starting on Thursday before Good Friday (when Jesus died) and ending on Easter Sunday (when he resurrected).
On the Saturday before Easter, more people attend church services and there is the lighting of candles followed by a bonfire outside of the church. These services involve prayer, singing of hymns, Bible verse readings, and remembering the events.
With Easter being on a weekend, families take this opportunity to spend time together and enjoy a special family meal in the afternoon or evening consisting of rice, chicken, meat, and a selection of veggies. Many will enjoy chocolate Mandazi, which are popular sweet treats (comparable to donuts but not as sweet).
Holy Week In India
For Christians in India, Holy Week is also a time for cheer and joy. Churches there are decorated and colorful parades take place on the streets with kids and adults wearing costumes representing characters from the Bible.
Similar to Easter in the US, India is also known for its symbolic Easter Bunny and decorative eggs often purchased to give to the children. A tradition there is also the exchange of gifts and blessings.
Although Good Friday is considered a day for grieving with churches vacant and unlit during this time, services happen in the afternoon and other religions in India may join the celebrations along with their family, friends, and neighbors. There is a traditional drink made from leaves, vinegar, and other ingredients that everyone drinks after service, bitter in taste.
Holy Week In Lebanon
Easter traditions in Lebanon are very special. Family is truly important, so most Christians celebrate together with close relatives as well as extended family; and because Easter lunch comes after a long period of fasting, they have a true feast consisting of things like lamb, turkey, chicken, vegetables, and other traditional dishes like maamoul. Families make date-filled shortbread cookies for their guests—which are made from the dough of wheat flour or semolina that is pressed into beautifully carved molds before baking.
These cookies symbolize Christ lying in the tomb, and on the inside, the sweet flavor is to remind people of the resurrection of Jesus on the third day. As for other traditions, egg matches are popular in Lebanon. These are a type of contest where each person will choose a colored hard-boiled egg and they need to find a match.
For Arab Christians like those from Muslim families, Easter can be extremely difficult as they continue to face the threat of persecution, so in some countries, Christians will send some maamoul to their Muslim neighbors as a gesture of goodwill.
Christians in the Middle East will gather together with family and friends and enjoy a big feast on Easter Sunday.
Preparing Our Hearts For Holy Week
As we prepare for Holy Week, we want to encourage you to spend some time reflecting on Christ’s sacrifice for us.
We are called by Christ to follow Jesus as our example in this life and that often means we are knowingly walking into the pain and agony of our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world.
So, let’s give thanks with a new heart, spend time in His word, and practice compassion.
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