12 of the World's Most Impressive Easter Services


Easter, the most holy of all Christian holidays, is celebrated with special services all over the world. Some of these Easter services may even inspire you to plan a pilgrimage.


The Salem Congregation Sunrise Service is the oldest continuous Easter sunrise service in America. It was first held in 1772, in the same manner Moravian churches held the service in Germany since 1732. Now, 245 years later, people come from all over the world to experience Easter sunrise in Winston-Salem. The Church Band, which is made up of around 100 members from all 13 churches of the Salem Congregation of Moravian churches, is used for all outdoor services such as funerals. It assembles at midnight for a breakfast, and then at 2 a.m. they march through the city playing hymns to begin Easter Sunday and to wake everyone for the service. This year's service will begin at 6 a.m. outside the Home Moravian Church for a procession to the Salem Moravian Graveyard, known as God's Acre. The service will be live-streamed at


Dating from the 4th century, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church counts its membership in the tens of millions. Devout adults give up all animal products during a 55-day Lent and then eat or drink nothing at all in the three days before Easter. The Easter (Fasika) service in Addis Ababa, the church's headquarters, is a music- and light-filled celebration that begins on Saturday night. Early on Easter morning, worshippers go home to break their fast. From the church website:

Easter, the feast of feasts, is celebrated with special solemnity. The church is filled with fragrance of incense and myriads of lights. The clergy are arrayed in their best vestments. All the people hold lighted tapers. Greetings are exchanged, drums are beaten, hands are clapped and singing is heard everywhere: "our resurrection has come, hosanna." Men are heard saying "O Lord Christ have mercy upon us." They pray for a blessing, "O God make it to be a festival of our good fortune and of our well being! Let us have another threshing floor and another year if thou wilt."

See an Easter service at the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Washington, D.C. here.


The Presidential Press and Information Office via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow is the tallest Orthodox church in the world. Patriarch Kirill, head of all the Russian Orthodox Church, presides over the Easter (Pascha) midnight mass. He begins the mass wearing white vestments, but changes to red before the end of the mass. See pictures from the Easter liturgy here.


For the past 39 years, the Capital Church of Vienna, Virginia, has led the Easter Sunrise Service at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. This year's service will begin at 6:30 a.m., and the interdenominational event is expected to draw several thousand people. The spectacular view of the sunrise over the Washington Monument is definitely a reason to wake up for the early-morning service.


Getty Images

At the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower (or simply the Duomo, as it's commonly known), Easter mass goes out with a bang. The tradition goes back to the Crusades when three flint stones were brought back to Florence from the Holy Sepulchre. They were used to spark the symbolic new fire at Easter, which is distributed to parishioners for their homes. The cart that carried the fire became more elaborate and was eventually loaded with explosives so that the holy fire would create real fireworks. This became known as Scoppio del Carro, or "explosion of the cart." The parish's love of fireworks entered the Easter morning mass itself in the 16th century when the church began using a rocket, shaped like a dove, as a visual aid to symbolize peace and the Holy Spirit. The holy fire is used to ignite the dove, which travels down a wire from the choir loft to the square outside and ignites the fire delivery cart. The fireworks display lasts for about 20 minutes.


The Holy Resurrection Cathedral is an Orthodox Church in Tokyo, informally called Nikolai-do after its founder, St. Nicholas Kasatkin. The Easter mass at the cathedral begins Saturday 30 minutes before midnight and runs until about 4 a.m. During that time, the lighting in the cathedral is changed from dark purple to bright white, signifying the resurrection. Food that was eschewed during Lent is brought in to be blessed before the feast that breaks the fast on Easter Sunday. Blessings are given in dozens of languages.


In 1944, a Methodist church took their youth group to the top of Stone Mountain to watch the sunrise on Easter morning, and a tradition was born. Now the Stone Mountain Sunrise Association conducts an Easter sunrise service every year for thousands of people. The Skyride lift begins operation three hours before the service, and anyone who decides to hike instead is urged to bring flashlights and allow plenty of time. For those who wish to remain at a lower elevation (or don't arrive early enough), a second service at the base of the mountain is held at the same time.


San Agustin, a Roman Catholic church in Manila, celebrates Easter with a midnight mass featuring the Salúbong, a pageant that recreates the joyful meeting of Jesus and his mother, Mary, after the resurrection. The drama begins with the procession of statues and includes music and dance. The Salúbong is performed as the sun rises on Easter morning and signifies the end of Holy Week rituals.


Getty Images

Formed in 1910, the Zion Christian Church has between five and eight million members. It is notably one of the largest African-initiated churches, meaning it was not founded by missionaries. The Easter celebration at the church's headquarters in Moria is the largest Christian gathering in South Africa, as millions of ZCC congregants travel to Moria for their annual pilgrimage. The Easter service, which is held outside, is full of music from brass bands and choirs, and includes group dancing and a sermon from the ZCC bishop, currently Bishop Barnabus Lekganyane of the St. Engenas Zion Christian Church.


The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built over the area identified as Golgotha, where the crucifixion of Jesus took place. Today, the church is under the shared custody of several different Christian sects. The Catholic Easter Vigil service begins on Saturday morning with a Latin liturgy and lasts through to early Sunday. In reality, there are breaks in the service, as Orthodox Christians will be celebrating Easter on the same date and using the church for their Holy Fire ceremony Saturday evening. According to the Orthodox tradition, a blue flame emanates from the tomb of Jesus, which the Patriarch uses to light candles. The fire is then passed to candles held by attendees, who take the holy flame home to places around the world. See pictures of the church's many Holy Week events here.


Protestant Christians, who are not represented among the custodians of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, often celebrate Easter in Jerusalem at the Garden Tomb, an alternative site considered by some to be the tomb of Jesus. The outdoor garden hosts several Resurrection services: an Arabic service Saturday at 4 p.m., two English services on Sunday at 6:30 and 9:30 a.m., and a Scandinavian service at 11 a.m. You can see pictures of the sunrise service here.


Sean Brucker via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

So many people travel to Vatican City in Rome for Easter that services are moved from St. Peter's Basilica to the square outside. Pope Francis has a full schedule of masses and blessings during Holy Week, culminating in the biggest crowds for the Easter Vigil and Easter morning mass. The Easter Vigil begins at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Easter Mass is at 10:15 a.m. Sunday, and there will also be a blessing at noon. St. Peter's Square can hold up to 80,000 people (though crowds lining the streets in the past have been estimated to be as big as 150,000), but for an Easter service, you'll need to reserve tickets well in advance.

AFP, Getty Images
Big Questions
What Happened to the Physical Copy of the 'I Have a Dream' Speech?
AFP, Getty Images
AFP, Getty Images

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave a speech for the ages, delivering the oratorical masterpiece "I Have a Dream" to nearly 250,000 people.

When he was done, King stepped away from the podium, folded his speech, and found himself standing in front of George Raveling, a former Villanova basketball player who, along with his friend Warren Wilson, had been asked to provide extra security around Dr. King while he was speaking. "We were both tall, gangly guys," Raveling told TIME in 2003. "We didn't know what we were doing but we certainly made for a good appearance."

Moved by the speech, Raveling saw the folded papers in King’s hands and asked if he could have them. King gave the young volunteer the speech without hesitation, and that was that.

“At no time do I remember thinking, ‘Wow, we got this historic document,’” Raveling told Sports Illustrated in 2015. Not realizing he was holding what would become an important piece of history in his hands, Raveling went home and stuck the three sheets of paper into a Harry Truman biography for safekeeping. They sat there for nearly two decades while Raveling developed an impressive career coaching NCAA men’s basketball.

In 1984, he had recently taken over as the head coach at the University of Iowa and was chatting with Bob Denney of the Cedar Rapids Gazette when Denney brought up the March on Washington. That's when Raveling dropped the bomb: “You know, I’ve got a copy of that speech," he said, and dug it out of the Truman book. After writing an article about Raveling's connection, the reporter had the speech professionally framed for the coach.

Though he displayed the framed speech in his house for a few years, Raveling began to realize the value of the piece and moved it to a bank vault in Los Angeles. Though he has received offers for King’s speech—one collector wanted to purchase the speech for $3 million in 2014—Raveling has turned them all down. He has been in talks with various museums and universities and hopes to put the speech on display in the future, but for now, he cherishes having it in his possession.

“That to me is something I’ll always be able to look back and say I was there,” Raveling said in the original Cedar Rapids Gazette article. “And not only out there in that arena of people, but to be within touching distance of him. That’s like when you’re 80 or 90 years old you can look back and say ‘I was in touching distance of Abraham Lincoln when he made the Gettysburg Address.’"

“I have no idea why I even asked him for the speech,” Raveling, now CEO of Coaching for Success, has said. “But I’m sure glad that I did.”

Live Smarter
3 Reasons Why Your New Year's Resolutions Fail—and How to Fix Them

You don’t need a special day to come up with goals, but New Year’s Day is as good a time as any to build better habits. The problem is, by the time February rolls around, our best laid plans have often gone awry. Don’t let it happen this year: Heed these three simple tips for fail-proof resolutions.


Let’s say your goal is to pay off $5000 worth of credit card debt this year. Since you're giving yourself a long timeframe (all year) to pay it down, you end up procrastinating or splurging, telling yourself you’ll make up for it later. But the longer you push it off, the bigger and more overwhelming your once-reasonable goal can feel.

Solution: Set Smaller Milestones

The big picture is important, but connecting your goal to the present makes it more digestible and easier to stick with. Instead of vowing to pay off $5000 by the end of next December, make it your resolution to put $96 toward your credit card debt every week, for example.

In a study from the University of Wollongong, researchers asked subjects to save using one of two methods: a linear model and a cyclical model. In the linear model, the researchers told subjects that saving for the future was important and asked them to set aside money accordingly. In contrast, they told the cyclical group:

This approach acknowledges that one’s life consists of many small and large cycles, that is, events that repeat themselves. We want you to think of the personal savings task as one part of such a cyclical life. Make your savings task a routinized one: just focus on saving the amount that you want to save now, not next month, not next year. Think about whether you saved enough money during your last paycheck cycle. If you saved as much as you wanted, continue with your persistence. If you did not save enough, make it up this time, with the current paycheck cycle.

When subjects used this cyclical model, focusing on the present, they saved more than subjects who focused on their long-term goal.


“Find a better job” is a worthy goal, but it's a bit amorphous. It's unclear what "better" means to you, and it’s difficult to plot the right course of action when you’re not sure what your desired outcome is. Many resolutions are vague in this way: get in shape, worry less, spend more time with loved ones.

Solution: Make Your Goal a SMART One

To make your goal actionable, it should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. When you set specific parameters and guidelines for your goal, it makes it easier to come up with an action plan. Under a bit more scrutiny, "spend more time with loved ones" might become "invite my best friends over for dinner every other Sunday night." This new goal is specific, measurable, time-bound—it ticks all the boxes and tells you exactly what you want and how to get there.


“A false first step is when we try to buy a better version of ourselves instead of doing the actual work to accomplish it,” Anthony Ongaro of Break the Twitch tells Mental Floss. “The general idea is that purchasing something like a heart rate monitor can feel a lot like we're taking a step towards our fitness goals,” Ongaro says. “The purchase itself can give us a dopamine release and a feeling of satisfaction, but it hasn't actually accomplished anything other than spending some money on a new gadget.”

Even worse, sometimes that dopamine is enough to lure you away from your goal altogether, Ongaro says. “That feeling of satisfaction that comes with the purchase often is good enough that we don't feel the need to actually go out for a run and use it.”

Solution: Start With What You Already Have

You can avoid this trap by forcing yourself to start your goal with the resources you already have on hand. “Whether the goal is to learn a new language or improve physical fitness, the best way to get started and avoid the false first step is to do the best you can with what you already have,” Ongaro says. “Start really small, even learning one new word per day for 30 days straight, or just taking a quick walk around the block every day.”

This isn’t to say you should never buy anything related to your goal, though. As Ongaro points out, you just want to make sure you’ve already developed the habit a bit first. “Establish a habit and regular practice that will be enhanced by a product you may buy,” he says. “It's likely that you won't even need that gadget or that fancy language learning software once you actually get started ... Basically, don't let buying something be the first step you take towards meaningful change in your life.”


More from mental floss studios