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Easter, the 'Light of Christ', from Jerusalem to the Jordan


Amman (AsiaNews) – For Easter, the 'Light of Jesus' comes directly from Jerusalem. Paschal tradition in this predominantly Muslim country demands in fact that candles be lighted on the eve of Easter Sunday with a lighted candle brought by the archbishop who celebrated mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.


Brought to the shores of the Jordan river, the lighted candle is used to light other candles that are taken across the country.

This year, Jordanian Christians have to wait till May 1, Easter Sunday according to the old Julian calendar.

The country's Council of Churches, which joins Copts, Catholics, Greek and Armenian Orthodox, and Protestants, decided that Christmas would be celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar and Easter according to the Julian calendar; hence, Lent has just started.

Fasting is widely observed; Catholics abstain from food especially on Fridays when they go to church to pray and take part in the Via Crucis. People also abstain from eating meat and turn to traditional dishes based on vegetables and grains cooked in olive oil.

Palm Sunday is celebrated with enthusiasm. The faithful arrive in church with palm branches decorated in a multitude of flowers.

During mass, the priest leads a large procession of people around the church, following the large cross carried by a group of church boys, with everyone joining in the prayers and hymns. A great bundle of olive tree branches are blessed and sprayed with holy water and distributed at the end.

Then begins the final week of Lent when Palm Sunday rejoicing is replaced by a more sombre mood.

On Holy Thursday, evening mass is jam-packed—twelve people chosen for the ritual washing of the feet. Churches stay open all night for worshippers who come to pray before the open tabernacle.

On Good Friday, worshippers pass around a statue of the dead Jesus lying on a wooden bed. With a train of flowers following the statue is laid before the altar, blessed, ready to be kissed by all those present.

On the afternoon of Holy Saturday, confession impels people to come to church in great numbers. When midnight mass begins churches are crowded—many faithful forced to stand in churchyards and streets; others following the liturgy from giant TV screens set up in parish halls.

Lights remained dimmed until church bells ring; then they are turned up. Candles are lit and blessed and passed around with people greeting each other with "the Light of Christ".

Holy Week is also a time when families boil and colour eggs for Easter Day, a statutory holiday in Jordan.

On Easter, churches are again jammed with worshippers. Afterwards, people break their fast, offer and eat Kaak and Maamoul, a popular sweet usually made at home using special dough stuffed with date paste or walnuts.

Kaak is doughnut-shaped with ragged edges resembling the crown of thorns that Jesus wore on the Cross. Maamoul is a small, round piece of dough that represents the sponge which was dipped in vinegar and offered to the Lord when He asked for water whilst on the cross.

Jordan has a population of 5.6 million people, 92 per cent Sunni Muslim, 6 per cent Christian and 2 per cent Shiite Muslim.