Christians worldwide belonging to the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrated their Easter on Sunday with a "holy fire" ceremony, roasted lamb, cakes and processions along the streets of Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
Their celebration of Christ's resurrection more than 2,000 years ago comes a month after the same occasion was celebrated in Roman Catholic and other Christian churches throughout the world.
The difference in dates is due to the fact that Eastern Orthodox churches follow the older Julian calendar while other Christian churches use the Gregorian calendar, USA Today reports.
At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem—the place where biblical authorities believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected — priests came out from a small chamber marked as Jesus' tomb and emerged with "holy fire." The priests then shared the flames with the faithful who lit their candles from the "holy fire," passing the latter from person to person until the streets outside were lit by the candle flames. This was part of a ceremony that dates back at least 1,200 years ago.
Worshippers, some carrying crosses, walked the 14 Stations of the cross, along streets lined with scores of Israeli security forces, the Daily Mail reports.
Jerusalem Patriarch Theophilos also passed on the flame to members of foreign delegations who brought it to Orthodox churches around the world. A Greek delegation took it to Athens earlier on Saturday, according to Greek news outlet Kathimerini.
On the eastern Greek Aegean island of Chios, two parishes staged a mock war marked with fireworks to celebrate the event, watched by visitors from across the country, according to the Associated Press.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attended midnight Mass, joining thousands of people at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the world's largest Orthodox Church, led the three-hour service, RT reports.
Orthodox Easter was also celebrated in Syria by Russian soldiers and airmen in a makeshift temple close to the Russian airbase in Hmeimim, Tass reports, citing the Russian Defence Ministry.
In Ukraine, Christians attended Easter service at the Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev where they consecrated cakes and intricately painted eggs as children dressed up in colourful national costumes.
In Washington, President Barack Obama issued a statement extending his Easter greeting and offering support to Christians, including those belonging to the Eastern Orthodox Church "who have been persecuted for their faith and subjected to unspeakable acts of violence."
The Eastern Orthodox Church is considered as the second largest Christian Church in the world with an estimated membership of 225 million to 300 million faithful.
It is one of the oldest religious institutions in the world practicing what it understands to be the original faith passed down from the Apostles.