Easter 2017 and 2018
In Jordan, Easter is known by its Arabic designation of “Eid Al Fiseh Al Atheem” and is an official holiday, though not a national holiday.
|2017||14 Apr||Fri||Good Friday|
|16 Apr||Sun||Easter Sunday|
|17 Apr||Mon||Easter Monday|
|2018||30 Mar||Fri||Good Friday|
|1 Apr||Sun||Easter Sunday|
|2 Apr||Mon||Easter Monday|
The Middle Eastern nation of Jordan, officially called “the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” and formerly “the Emirate of Trans-Jordan,” is an Arab Kingdom headed by King Abdullah II, great-grandson of the founder of modern Jordan (Abdullah I). The nation has a population of about eight million, and over 90 percent of them are Sunni Muslims. Geographically, it lies on the west bank of the Jordan River, touches the Red Sea at the Gulf of Aqaba, and is shaped like a lopsided triangle with a large, eastern panhandle. Most of the land is desert, but there are Mediterranean climates on the more elevated western plateaus, where the bulk of the people live. The nation is separated from Israel by the deep Jordan Rift Valley and also borders Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
As recently as 1950, 30 percent of Jordanians were Christian, but due to emigration of Christians and immigration of Muslims, that number has dwindled down to six percent. This is still more than in most Arab countries, however, and there is relative toleration of Christians. Discrimination follows upon conversion from Islam, but otherwise, they are allowed to take part in the society. For example, Jordan’s most popular t.v. channel and many of its businesses are owned by Christians, and Christians are traditionally reserved two cabinet positions and nine parliament seats. Recently, many Iraqi Christians fleeing persecution in Mosul have found refuge in Jordan. Jordan also has friendly relations with Western powers, welcomes many Westerners who come to live and study in Amman, and its economy is heavily dependent on Western tourists.
Most Christians in Jordan are of the Greek Orthodox tradition, but there are also a number of Syrian, Coptic, and Armenian Orthodox, Eastern and Latin Rite Catholics, and a small group of Protestants. Each of these groups will celebrate Easter according to their own denomination’s traditions, but recently, nearly all of them have agreed to celebrate on the Orthodox date of Easter rather than the Western date. Finally, it should also be noted that large numbers of tourists visit Jordan every Easter season and crowd into churches not necessarily of their particular denomination. This situation has led to an “ecumenical” spirit among some, though not all, of the local congregations.
This distinction means that, while celebrated by Christians, it is not given any regard by Muslims. Christian schools, plentiful in Jordan, will have off-days from Holy Thursday through Easter Monday. Other Christian establishments, and churches of course, will in some way acknowledge the Easter season. Most shops and diners, however, will remain open, and the non-Christian majority will not join in the celebrations.
Orthodox believers, Catholics, and numerous pilgrims will gather during Holy Week for special services at the local churches. The sufferings, death, burial, and Resurrection of Christ will be remembered through Scripture readings, liturgies, prayer vigils, choral and congregational singing, and by symbolic representations of Christ’s Passion and victory over death. Important dates include: Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem amid cries of “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!;” Holy Thursday, the date of the Last Supper and the arrest in Gethsemane; Good Friday, when Christ died on a Roman cross; Holy Saturday, when his body lay still in the tomb; and Easter Sunday, when he arose in triumph from the grave. Each of these dates will have special services, and some also celebrate on the Monday following Easter.
Anyone visiting Jordan around Easter time should consider attending Easter services as well as visiting important historical sites and other popular destinations. Some places you might want to visit during your Jordanian vacation include:
- The Christian enclave towns of Fuheis and Al Hussein will have services with a local flavor. An Orthodox service at the Church of the Holy Unction in Madeba is another option. The Melkite Cathedral in Amman offers a Roman Catholic experience with an Arab congregation, and the Episcopal Redeemer Church in Amman has an English-speaking Easter Sunrise Service on Mt. Nebo.
- There are many tourist sites of religious significance in Jordan, including: a baptismal site at Mt. Nebo, the excavations at Bethabara, where John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, and the “mosaic city” of Madeba.
- Sites to see of historical importance include: Petra, the city carved out of rock and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World; Roman ruins in the city of Jerash such as the Oval Piazza, the Arch of Hadrian, the Temple of Hercules, several theaters, and a citadel; Greek ruins such as the city of Gadara, the large-stoned Castle of the Slave, and various remnants in Amman; and the Ottoman-era Hejaz Railway Bridge. It will also be worthwhile to stop by the Jordan Archaeological Museum.
- Cultural experiences can be had by shopping at local Jordanian markets, shops, and bazaars. You may well be offered a cup of coffee or tea and then expected to engage in traditional price-haggling before making a purchase. Most establishments will be closed on Fridays, but note that the Souk Market will still be open. Expect to find plenty of local, hand-made products, which make great souvenirs.
- Pure entertainment is also to be found in Jordan. There are many resorts and beaches on the Dead Sea and on the Gulf of Aqaba. You can also be “entertained by nature’s wonders” at the popular Dana Biosphere Reserve.
While Jordan is not a Christian land, it does have a Christian minority and many pilgrims who celebrate Easter amid the Muslim surroundings. The experience of celebrating Easter in Jordan will create memories that last a lifetime, and there are numerous religious, cultural, historical, and entertainment sites worth visiting while you are there.