Along with Christmas, Easter is one of the most important religious festivities for Christians and it’s the day when religious people celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In most Slavic languages, the name for Easter either means “Great Day” or “Great Night”. In Montenegrin, however, the day’s name reflects a particular theological connection: it is called Vaskrs, meaning “Resurrection”.
Easter church services are followed by families having their baskets of colored eggs blessed by the parish priest. Usually the eggs are red symbolizing happiness, joy, rebirth and the blood of Christ. Families exchange eggs and say, Hristos Voskrese (Christ is risen). The response is Voistinu Voskrese (Indeed He is risen).
Central to the Montenegrin celebration of Easter is the egg, the seasonal symbol of new life. Easter eggs in Western Europe can be made of chocolate and sold in supermarkets. However, people in Montenegro use ordinary chicken eggs at Easter, boiling scores of them at home on Good Friday.
While the Easter weekend is the climax of the celebration, for many Montenegrins the festivities start in earnest on Lazar’s Saturday, a week before Easter. On that day, church floors are covered for the afternoon mass with the flower known as vrba, or in English, purple loosestrife.
During the ceremony, the priest blesses the flowers and shares them with believers. This day marks Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Vrba is a version of the palm fronds that children laid down on Jesus’ path. Believers also make wreaths out of vrba flowers and place them on their front doors, while children wear little bells around their necks as a symbol of Jesus’ coming.
The tradition is dyeing the first set of eggs in red and setting one of them aside until next Easter. That egg is called the housekeeper, referring to the belief that the egg will help protect the home. Although coloured dyes for the eggs can be bought in the market, most people still dye at least 10 eggs by boiling them with an onion. The onion gives the eggs a nice red colour.
In the Orthodox tradition, believers give up certain food during the 40 days up to the Easter, making Easter Sunday a much-awaited feast.
After morning liturgy, families have breakfast together and play the game of ‘tucanje’, which involves cracking eggs against each other to see which one breaks first. Most Montenegrins spend Easter visiting friends and family.