What makes Greek Easter so special?
Easter is the biggest celebration of the Orthodox Christians and the one richest in folklore. The word “Pascha”, Easter in Greek, stems from the Jewish “Pasah” which means “Passover”.
Jewish people celebrated “Pasah” to commemorate their liberation from the Egyptians and the passage of the Red sea, while Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ the Saviour and the passage from death to life.
The Easter season is a time when many people celebrate the rebirth of life in the springtime. In many parts of the world, people celebrate Easter by going to church, having Easter eggs, and spending time with family.
For Greeks, this time is especially special, as Easter is celebrated in a unique way that is steeped in tradition and symbolism.
On Holly Thursday we traditionally prepare tsourekia (sweet buns resembling brioche) and color eggs with special red dyes. Ever since antiquity the egg is a symbol of new life and the red color symbolizes the blood of Christ.
Friday is the holiest day of the week, when Christ's passion reaches its peak with His deposition from the cross and burial. Today is a day to mourn, so we avoid even cooking. Women and children go to church to decorate the Epitaph (Christ's grave) with flowers. In the morning of Good Friday, Christ's burial Is reenacted in church and in the evening The Epitaph procession takes place.
On Easter Saturday morning, preparations start for the festive dinner of the night of the Resurrection and we cook “magiritsa” (a tripe and herbs soup).
Shortly before midnight, we gather in church holding candles which we light with the “Holy Light” distributed by the priest. At midnight we all chant, with great passions, “Christos Anesti” to let the world know that He has Risen. The flame is passed from person to person, until it makes its way into every home in Greece, were we thrice make the sign of the cross on the entrance door of our house for good luck and blessings!
Here I must make a note about one of the most striking aspects of Greek Easter: our chanting of “Christos Anesti”. This tradition gives the holiday a special feeling of excitement and power. In churches throughout Greece, the Easter service is sung to a specific melody that has been passed down for centuries. This unique music is believed to lift the spirits of worshippers and bring them closer to God.
And at last! It is Easter Sunday! The Christ has risen and you can see hope and happiness written on people’s face.
On Easter Sunday morning, in many parts of the country lamb is prepared on the spit. There is something so special and unique about watching the lamb rotate slowly on the spit, filling the air with its delicious aroma. Families and friends come together to celebrate this special occasion, and the lamb is always the star of the show. There is a festive atmosphere everywhere and people eat and dance usually until late into the night.
Easter is a time full of tradition and meaning for us and is a very special time to be with family and friends. Easter is a celebration of rebirth, and for Greeks, it is a time to come together and rejoice in our culture and traditions. There will be feasting, dancing, and of course, lots of delicious food!
I hope that you have the opportunity to experience Greek Easter firsthand, and I wish you all a happy Easter!