Soul Saturday

Soul Saturday

Memorial Saturday, Psychosavato, Saturday of Souls

On four Saturdays of each year Greek Orthodox churches hold special church services dedicated to the memory of departed loved ones. The Orthodox call each of these days "Soul Saturday," "Saturday of Souls," or "Memorial Saturday." The Greek name for these observances is Psychosavato. The four Soul Saturdays fall during the pre-Lent, Lent, and Easter seasons. Orthodox and other Eastern Christians follow a different church calendar than that commonly adhered to by Western Christians, that is, Roman Catholics and Protestants (see also Easter, Date of). For the Orthodox Lent begins on the evening of Forgiveness Sunday, seven Sundays before Easter. In Greek Orthodox churches the first Soul Saturday occurs two Saturdays before the beginning of Lent, the second on the Saturday before Forgiveness Sunday, the third on the first Saturday in Lent, and the fourth on the Saturday before Pentecost. Other Orthodox churches may schedule these observances on different Lenten Saturdays.

Orthodox Christians hold Soul Saturday services on Saturdays in remembrance that Jesus lay dead in his tomb on the Saturday before the Resurrection (see also Holy Saturday). During the service the names of deceased parishioners are read out loud and prayers are offered for them. After church worshipers eat kollyva, a special dish that Greeks and other Orthodox Christians make for funerals and other memorial services. Kollyva is made from boiled wheat, raisins, nuts, sugar, spices, and other ingredients. According to Greek folklore, each ingredient in this dish represents an aspect of the afterlife. The wheat stands for eternal life, the raisins for sweetness, the sugar for heaven, the pomegranate seeds for abundance, and the parsley for the fertile earth. Each family who attends the service may bring a platter of kollyva with them to church. The families decorate their offerings of kollyva with a cross and the initials of the deceased, although it is customary to mix all the kollyva together after the service. This gesture represents the mingling of souls that takes place in heaven. As people partake of the mixed kollyva they greet one another with the phrase, "May God forgive the souls of the dead."

Orthodox Christians may also observe Soul Saturday by visiting the graves of the departed. This manner of observance provides family members with a good opportunity to clean and decorate grave sites. In Greece women usually perform this chore. Family members may also bring candles and kollyva to the grave site.

Further Reading

Rouvelas, Marilyn. A Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America. Bethesda, MD: Nea Attiki Press, 1993. Storace, Patricia. Dinner with Persephone. New York: Vintage Books, 1996.
Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2002
References in periodicals archive ?
q Lindley, Bay Horse (10th) "SOUL SATURDAY", (17th) "QUADROPHENIA NIGHT"