Easter is the most important religious holiday in the Orthodox Church. It falls two weeks later than the Easter Day celebrated by Roman Catholics. The 40 days before Easter is a time of fasting called Lent. Celebrations for Easter begin the week before Easter Sunday with a service of forgiveness. On Good Friday, there is a procession of the Epitaphion, a shroud on which is painted a picture of Christ's body being taken down from the Cross. On the Saturday night, the congregation forms a procession that symbolizes the search for the body of Christ. The procession leaves the church in darkness but when it returns and the resurrection is announced, everyone lights candles. On Easter Day, there are many processions with candles to commemorate the resurrection.
Many festivals that originated in pre-Christian times are still celebrated in Belarus. The festival of Kupalle held in July celebrates nature and summertime. People return to their home villages to celebrate in fields and forests with picnics and bonfires. Traditional songs are sung and people dance in circles around bonfires. Sometimes a man and woman will hold hands and jump over the bonfire as a symbol of spiritual cleansing.

 The festival of Kaliady celebrates the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. It takes place on December 21. Children dress up in traditional clothes and wear masks depicting animals. They proceed in groups from house to house, singing and dancing. At each house they show off the masks and receive food and drink in return. 

  Did you know?
Painting eggs is an Easter tradition in Eastern Europe. In Belarus people dye a single hen's egg red by boiling it with red onion. People also bake a special round cake and take the cake and egg to church where they are blessed. 
Another ancient tradition is the annual tidying of the graves of parents and grandparents. Orthodox Christians celebrate this festival around April 23 and call it the Easter of the Dead, or Radounitsa. Some families leave painted Easter eggs at the graves to show that the departed are still part of the family. Catholics honour the dead on All Souls Day, or Dzyady, on November 2.

 A few of the holidays celebrated in the former Soviet Union are still observed. Attendance at the May Day parades honouring workers used to be compulsory, but now most people celebrate the holiday quietly staying at home or visiting their families. February 23, which was once Soviet Army Day, is now Men's Day, but it is not an official holiday. On this day men receive presents much as they do in North America on Father's Day.

January 1  New Year’s Day
January 7  Orthodox Christmas
March 8 Women's Day
March 15 Constitution Day
March/April Catholic and Orthodox Easter
May 1 Labour Day (May Day)
May 9 Victory Day
July 27 Independence Day
November 2 Remembrance Day
December 25 Catholic Christmas
  Did you know?
Paparat is a fern that grows in the forests of Belarus and rarely flowers. On Kupalle it is said that if you find a blossoming paparat you will find happiness. It is also said that evil spirits follow people in the forest to keep them from finding the magic plant.