March 15, 2019

Experience 247 Years of Easter Tradition

Enrich your Easter traditions with a historic celebration that dates to 1772 in Winston-Salem. Held continuously for the past 247 years in the historic Moravian settlement of Old Salem, the annual Easter Sunrise Service is the longest consecutive observance of its kind in the nation. Thousands of observers gather year after year on the sacred grounds of God's Acre just as the sun rises over the rolling hills.

Welcoming to all, this unique event is truly a soulful experience to include on your bucket list this spring.

It begins with the Moravian Brass Church Band strolling the city streets at 2 a.m. playing a series of traditional hymns to celebrate the day, a custom that longtime residents respect and admire, while visitors awe in curiosity. Many members of the band have been playing well over 70 years and have inspired the generations after them to continue the tradition. Just before sunrise, the service begins outside of Home Moravian Church near Old Salem. The thousands in attendance proceed to God's Acre while the band plays antiphonally from the different corners of the cemetery, united as one in song.

The 247th Easter Sunrise Service is held Sunday, April 21 at Home Moravian Church, 529 South Church Street (at the corner of Academy Street and S. Church Street) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Moravians still call their graveyards by the ancient name used by their ancestors - "God's Acre." It is a "field" in which the bodies of loved ones are sown in faith as "physical bodies," in due time to be raised as "spiritual bodies."

A feature of God's Acre is the recumbent stones, symbolizing the Moravian belief in the democracy of death. It is therefore impossible to distinguish between the graves of the rich and poor. The burial of members according to "choirs" or station in life (married men, married women, single men, single women, etc.) rather than by families, is another distinguishing feature, carrying out the departmental system which was introduced into the Moravian Church over two hundred years ago.

The service is open to anyone and is casual. Families with strollers and guests in wheelchairs are welcomed and encouraged to attend as well. If you are with someone in a wheelchair, you may drive into Old Salem near the square to drop off and then leave to park your vehicle. Restroom facilities are available at various locations and an usher will direct you.

It will be somewhat dark when you arrive and there is a fair amount of walking involved, so plan to dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes.

There will be a hospitality station in front of the Belo Home at 455 S. Main Street, near Salem Square serving complimentary warm coffee and Moravian Sugar Cake.

Once you park and walk into Old Salem, you will notice ushers at various locations. These people are available to direct you to your destination as well as answer general questions that you might have.

Below are some of the areas available for parking during the Easter Sunrise Service:
Old Salem lot off Salt St. (location of old Visitors Center)
Old Salem upper Salt St. parking lot
MESDA lot on east side of lower Main Street at cul-de-sac
Old Salem Visitors Center parking lot at Walnut Street and Old Salem Road
Salem College lot on Cemetery Street
Salem Funeral's parking lot (First Street between Main and Liberty Streets)

If you're interested in attending this wonderful Sunrise Service, you can make it a weekend of history and culture by booking an Easter Weekend Getaway at the Historic Brookstown Inn - just blocks away from Old Salem.