The Unsung Traditions of Easter Monday
Traditionally, Easter is celebrated on the second Sunday in April. However, not all denominations and cultures did so in the past. The designated day wasn’t an official holiday until Pope Victor I decreed it between 189 and 199 AD. Despite his decree, certain cultures celebrate the Resurrection of Christ on Monday instead.
Eastern Orthodox/Greek Rite Celebration
Compared to other Christian faiths, Eastern Orthodox and Greek Rite churches observe the Resurrection of Jesus for an entire week, known as Bright Week. The observance begins Easter Sunday with traditional services, including Holy Liturgy and outdoor procession, through the Second Sunday of Easter (or Thomas Sunday). As the practice has evolved, the faithful only observe on Monday and two additional days.
On Easter Monday, parishioners will attend services. If the day falls on the feast day of a significant saint, they will celebrate the particular saint on that day.
Informal U.S. Holiday
While not an official holiday in the United States, the Monday following Easter is considered an informal holiday in certain states and cities. Public school systems and universities in specific states include the day in an Easter four-day weekend. Easter Monday is part of some school districts and states’ Spring Break.
Polish-American populations throughout the midwestern and northeastern U.S. continue the long-held tradition of Dygnus Day. They often carry on with various celebrations, including polka bands and parades.
Unofficial African-American Holiday
For Black Americans, Easter Monday holds a special place in the culture. This tradition reportedly stems from Washington, DC-area Black families not being invited to the White House Easter Egg Roll. Another theory ties the day to Black housekeepers getting the day off after working on Easter Sunday. It reportedly started in 1891 when Black families wore Easter dress clothing to the National Zoo the day after Easter.
Families go to the National Zoo for a day filled with an Easter egg hunt, trivia games, music, and an appearance from the Easter Panda. In the past, the tradition originally included storytelling and performances from various parts of the diaspora, including gospel and reggae groups and a double-dutch jump rope team.