Day of Rejoicing: Belarusians pray for the departed

Today, on the second Tuesday after Easter, Orthodox Christians pray for the souls of the departed.The Day of Rejoicing (Radonitsa) is a unique tradition which has both pagan and Christian roots. The cult of ancestors used to be of high importance: Belarusians believed that any undertaking or initiative would be successful when blessed by the ancestors.

As for the provenance of the word, linguists have not reached common ground yet. Some etymologists say it took its name from the word ‘rod’ (family, clan). Orthodox Christians put the name of the feast down to the fact that on this day people bring the joy (‘radost’) of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ to their nearest and dearest who passed away. Several academic associate ‘Radonitsa’ with the Lithuanian word ‘raudá’ (crying, keening).

On the Eve of Radonitsa believers put graves in order. On the feast day people attend cemeteries to ‘share’ Easter food with the deceased and ‘communicate’ the Good news to them. By this way the living give their hope of everlasting live to the dead. The Orthodox Christian Church disapprove of having meals at cemeteries stressing that it is the prayers that counts for the departed souls.

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