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Observing Good Friday, Easter and Passover in 2016

good-friday-employee-holidayGood Friday, observed on March 25, 2016, is a Christian religious and statutory holiday recognized across Canada.

Depending on the jurisdiction, most employees are entitled to a day off with regular pay or public holiday pay.

If an employee is required to work on Good Friday, the employee must be paid regular wages and get a substituted day off with pay at a later date, depending on the jurisdiction.

easter holidays ontario canada provincial quebec good friday easter sunday easter mondayEaster Sunday, observed on March 27, 2016, is a Christian religious holiday as well as a retail holiday, in some provinces and territories. Under the authority of the Shops’ Closing Act, the Retail Business Holidays Act and other similar legislation, depending on the province or territory of employment, all shops or retail businesses, other than those defined as exempt, are required to be closed.

Easter Sunday and Monday are not public (statutory) holidays requiring the employer to give a day off with public holiday pay. However, some employers may provide such days as public holidays or allow employees to use them as floater days.

However, in Quebec, if the employer has not accommodated its employees on Good Friday with a day off with pay, employers are required to provide employees with a day off with regular pay on Easter Monday. The employer may choose which day off it prefers, the Friday or Monday. If the employee is required to work on Easter Monday and did not receive the day off on Good Friday, the employee must be paid regular wages and get a substituted day off, with pay, at a later date.

Some federally regulated companies and other employers in Canada, at their discretion, recognize Easter Monday as a holiday.

For more information and specific requirements for your jurisdiction, consult HRinfodesk.

How is Easter celebrated and observed?

Good Friday and the Easter period celebrates Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

Easter has been referred to as a moveable feast because it does not fall on a set date every year, as most holidays do.

Christian Western churches (Catholic and Protestant) celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox on March 21. In accordance with complex calculations, Easter is observed anywhere between March 22 and April 25 every year, based on the Gregorian calendar.

Christian Eastern churches (Greek, Russian, and other forms of Orthodoxy) use the same calculation to calculate when Easter will be observed, but based on the Julian calendar (where March 21 is April 3). Easter is typically celebrated a week or two after the Western churches. Thus, Orthodox Holy Friday is April 29, 2016 and Easter is celebrated on May 1, 2016.

In the Christian church, Easter is not recognized as a single day of observance.

A 40 day period leading up to Easter Sunday, named Lent, is a time of reflection and penance, and represents the 40 days that Jesus spent alone in the wilderness before starting his ministry, a time in which Christians believe he survived various temptations by the devil.

The day before Lent, known as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, is a last day to indulge in food and fun before fasting begins.

The week preceding Easter is called Holy Week and includes Maundy Thursday (which commemorates Jesus’ last supper with his disciples), Good Friday (which honors the day of his crucifixion), and Holy Saturday (which focuses on the transition between the crucifixion and resurrection).

A 50 day period following Easter Sunday, named Eastertide, is a time where Jesus’ ascension into heaven is celebrated.

A few fun facts

  • The first recorded observance of Easter was during the second century, however the day was set by the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.
  • For centuries, the church forbade Christians from eating eggs during lent, and it became a treat to resume eating them on Easter.
  • The first chocolate eggs were made in Europe in the early 19th century. Cadbury Creme Eggs were first introduced in 1971, and more than 500 million are made each year.
  • 90 million chocolate Easter Bunnies are produced each year. How are they eaten? 76% of people eat the ears first, 5% of people eat the feet first, 4% of people eat the tail first, and 15% eat other parts first.

Happy Easter to those who celebrate and a great long weekend for those who have the time off!

Other religious observances

Orthodox Holy Friday (April 29) is observed as a strict fast. Orthodox Christians are expected to abstain from all food and drink the entire day.

Orthodox Easter (May 1), also called Pascha, is the most important religious feast in the Orthodox Christian liturgical year.

These two days may require accommodation for Orthodox observant employees to attend services.

Passover (Pesach), a Jewish holiday, is also typically celebrated during that time. This is an 8 day holiday that commemorates the deliverance of slavery in Egypt. This year, the holiday coincides with the dates of the Orthodox church Easter holy period and begins at sundown on April 22. During these days (starting from the previous sundown), those who observe are prohibited from doing “melacha”, which translates roughly as “creative accomplishment”, and includes turning lights on or off, driving, writing, using the telephone, handling money, or using a computer. The days are spent in synagogue prayer and family meals.

Employers must accommodate Jewish employees by giving them time to leave work early to prepare for the holiday, and to take the holy days off. In the intermediate days work is permitted.

Cristina Lavecchia

Cristina is an editor and researcher at First Reference. She is a licensed paralegal and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree, Political Science major at York University. During Cristina's paralegal and undergraduate studies she studied employment standards, occupational health and safety, and workplace safety and insurance. Read more

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