When is Commemoration Day?
Commemoration Day is a national holiday in Belarus. It is observed on the ninth day after Orthodox Easter, which means it always falls on a Tuesday.
The preceding Monday may be declared a bridge holiday to create a long weekend.
It is also known as Radunitsa or Radonitsa and is a festival amongst many eastern Slavs, though Belarus is the only country where it is a state holiday.
Despite its date being dependent on Easter and it being observed as an Orthodox Christian holiday, the origins of Radunitsa are pagan rather than Christian with its roots based on an ancestor festival.
On Radonitsa, families go to church and then on to the cemetery. At the family tomb, a meal is eaten and any leftovers are offered to dead relatives. In pagan times, families would have left eggs on the graves of the dead, symbolising rebirth.
When Christianity arrived in the region, rather than suppress the older traditions, the church simply absorbed the rituals into Christian festivals. The egg was an easy one as the date of spring for the ancestor worship festival fell close to Easter and the use of the egg as a symbol of rebirth fitted well with the Easter message of resurrection.
Despite honouring and remembering the dead, Radonitsa is a day of celebration not one of mourning. Indeed, in Slavic languages, Radonitsa means 'Joy Day'.