Orthodox Holy Saturday

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When is Orthodox Holy Saturday in Canada?

Holiday in Other Languages

English Name

Orthodox Holy Saturday

French Name

Orthodoxe Samedi Saint

German Name

Orthodoxer Karsamstag

Holy Saturday is the day when Jesus lay in his tomb after his death, according to Christian belief. Many Orthodox Christian churches in Canada often observe Holy Saturday at a later date than the Holy Saturday date observed by many western churches. Holy Saturday is also known as Holy and Great Saturday.

Is Orthodox Holy Saturday a Public Holiday?

Even though Orthodox Holy Saturday falls on Saturday, May 1, 2021, it is a working day. Most businesses follow regular opening hours in Canada.

What Do People Do?

Many Orthodox Christian churches in Canada follow the Byzantine rite, which includes practices such as beginning the Holy Saturday church liturgy in darkness, accompanied by chanting. The liturgies are held late at night and the congregation usually remains silent in darkness until the stroke of midnight between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. The priest then lights a candle and those who carry a candle waiting for theirs to be lit. The light is spread from person to person until the church is lit with candlelight.

A procession takes place outside of the church during some church liturgies. This tradition is a reenactment of the myrrh bearers’ journey to Jesus’ tomb Jesus on Easter morning. The procession stops at the church doors, which then open. The opening of the doors symbolizes the stone that rolled away to open Jesus’ tomb, where his body was no longer there, according to Christian belief. The midnight church liturgies end in the early hours of Easter Sunday.

Public Life

The Christian Orthodox date for Holy Saturday is not a federal public holiday in Canada.


Many Orthodox churches retained the Julian calendar after the Gregorian calendar was introduced in Europe in 1582. Therefore they often follow a different Easter date compared with many western churches. Easter holidays, such as Holy Saturday, are “moveable feasts” as these dates change according to calendar calculations.

The term orthodox, derived from Greek, means “right teaching” or “right worship”, according to the National Defence and the Canadian Forces. The eastern Christian churches’ gradual adoption of the term reflects their view of the correctness of their position in doctrinal differences with the Roman Catholic Church.

There are different types of Orthodox churches across Canada. Greek Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, and Russian Orthodox churches spread in Canada as a result of immigration over the years.  Other Eastern Orthodox churches include the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.


Candles that are lit during Holy Saturday church liturgies symbolize Jesus Christ’s victory over death, as well as the Christian belief in his resurrection. It can also mean spiritual hope and victory.