Day in Belgrade: Painting eggs on the Holy and Great Friday

The saddest day for Christian believers is marked by one of the oldest customs in Orthodox church

Wednesday 4th of April 2018

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The Serbian Orthodox Church marks the Holy and Great Friday on 6th April. This day is called the Passion Friday as well. This is the saddest day for all Christians because it marks the suffering of Jesus Christ. It is not appropriate to organize parties or listen to music, even church bells do not ring until Easter. The Saint Sava Temple, St. Mark's Church, the Cathedral Church and almost all the churches in Belgrade organize evening worship to mark the time of Jesus' death and the removal of the body from the cross.

Good Friday (Holy and Great Friday) brings with it many customs that symbolize Jesus' crucifixion and everything that preceded this event. There are many traditional rituals that the believers strictly adhere to. The fast is obligatory, and many follow the water fast. Some do not eat until dark. People do not work anything in the house nor around it. It is strictly forbidden to drink wine because it is the symbol of the innocent blood of Christ's. It is believed that unmarried girls who pick flowers from the churchyard and put it under a pillow, will dream of the one who was meant to them during the night. A lot of customs have been forgotten, but one has been present all these years.

Egg painting is one of the oldest customs. They used to be painted only red that symbolizes Jesus' blood and a new life born of his victim. In Serbia, this custom has been respected since the 12th century. The first egg, which is red in colour, is called cuvarkuca (the guardian) and remains in the house until the next Easter, and the one from the last year is buried in the ground to bring happiness to the householders.

Easter is the happiest holiday because it represents the victory of life over death. Because of this, the eggs are painted in red. According to the religious customs, the eggs should be painted only in red. Other colours and additional decorations are not in the religious spirit, but as the children look forward to colorful eggs, this custom is not adhered to by modern society.

It is believed that Mary Magdalene, after Jesus' crucifixion, went to Rome to Emperor Tiberius. As a token of appreciation, she gave him a red egg and greeted him with "Christ is risen!". It was the first time that this greeting was used. Thus, the custom of painting eggs arose, and the red colour became the colour of the resurrection. Mary Magdalene stayed with Jesus at Golgotha ​​until the end. It was her that he first appeared to when he resurrected.