Lazarus Saturday – Celebrations and Customs

The profound spiritual significance of today’s feast invites us to reflect on the events that took place in Bethany. Namely, just as our Savior Christ, with love and Divine power, entered the home of Lazarus to raise him from the dead, so too do these same love and power lead us to welcome Him as the Resurrector and Liberator in our souls. Our old self, which we figuratively buried with Lazarus over the past four days, is now called to rise again with Christ, our friend, through the abundance of God’s grace bestowed upon us today.

Our lives are filled with graves of sins and passions that lead us towards spiritual death. Without the presence of the Lord and the action of His grace in our lives, we are powerless to escape these dark tombs. Therefore, it is imperative that we heed His Divine voice, the voice that called out, “Lazarus, come forth,” bridging the chasm between death and life, darkness and light, non-being and being.

For every Christian, it is essential to hear this voice in their life, to recognize and follow it. The voice that teaches, encourages, comforts, and corrects keeps us on the path toward life and eternity. Through cleansing our conscience with repentance and confession, our spiritual hearing is strengthened, enabling us to more clearly hear the Word of God.

The resurrection of Lazarus is not just a historical event or legend, but a living testimony to the power of Christ that affirms the universal resurrection at the end of time. Each of us will stand before Christ, who not only rose from the dead but also bore the cross of the ultimate sacrifice for us all.

According to Christian tradition, on the eve of Lazarus Saturday, when our Savior Lord Jesus Christ raised Lazarus, who had been dead for four days and laid in the tomb, there was a custom for housewives to make so-called Lazarus bread or Lazarus dolls, in his memory.

Lazarus breads are sweet cakes, whose composition reminds us of the koliva made and offered in memory of the deceased. Their shape symbolizes Lazarus, deceased and wrapped in burial cloths.

On Saturday morning, women would bring the Lazarus breads to the church, and after the Holy Liturgy ended, they distributed them to those present, especially to the children, with great love and piety.

On the same day of Lazarus Saturday, children, organized by their teachers and parents, would go to parks and nearby forests to collect willow branches and flowers, which they brought to the church, singing Christian carols for Lazarus, Christ’s friend, and the festive troparion “General Resurrection.”

The willow branches were scattered throughout the church and given to the faithful by the priest in memory of Palm Sunday, or Christ’s glorious entry into Jerusalem, humbly seated on a donkey, while the colorful flowers richly decorated the icons and doors of the church. Some Christians also adorned their homes with them for a blessing from God for a fruitful year. This custom was maintained in many Macedonian towns and villages until the Second World War.

On the feasts of Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday, many people attended the Holy Liturgy and partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ – the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, preparing themselves for the great and holy Week of Passion and for the most glorious Resurrection of Christ. During the days of Passion Week, no festivities, celebrations, feasts, or rejoicings were practiced, but honor was given to Christ’s sufferings and the overall sacrifice our Lord and Savior made for our salvation.

Канон на Лазаревото Воскресение
Лазаревата каланда: Кажи Лазаре