Easter – Pascha in Greek, is a wonderful time to visit Greece and experience all the customs and traditions that the Greeks celebrate today that has changed very little in hundreds of years. Easter in Greece is the holiest of all religious festivals in Greece.
The festivals, celebrations and traditions show us the spirit and passion that is so alive in Greeks and you see the spirit of community at its best. It is still refreshingly non commercialized.
Greece is a Christian Orthodox country and a large percentage of the population follows closely the christian traditions, and many will observe the traditions of Lent and give up certain foods for this time. The foods that are generally restricted for Lent are meat or fish that has blood, as well as anything that comes from an animal with blood such as cheese, yogurt, milk and eggs. Seafood such as calamari, prawns and octopus are suitable to eat.
For the greek orthodox Easter, the church follows the Julian calender, and that is why some years Greece celebrates Easter at a different time to other countries.
Greek Easter starts with Clean Monday – Katheri Deftera, which is the first day of Lent. It is a public holiday in Greece and there will be many parties and celebrations going on. Many people will be feasting on fish, and gathering round to play music and sing songs as the greeks are so good at when celebrating. This day presents cleansing their bodies for the resurrection. The whole period of Lent in Greece is called Nistia and any food which is allowed to be eaten during this time will have the word nistisima after it, to indicate that the ingredients are not part of the restricted foods.
The week before Easter starts off the main period of Easter with Palm Sunday. The week leading up to Pascha in Greece is called Holy Week – Megali Evdomatha. This is a very busy time, many things happening around the church, traditional services and events are held and a feeling of excitement in the air as it gets closer to the Easter weekend and all the celebrations that are planned for then.
On Holy or Great Thursday, preparation gets underway for the greek Easter celebration. Tsoureki, greek easter bread recipe is a special, celebratory bread that is slightly sweet in taste. This is usually only made for Easter, and several will be baked today to last over the weekend. Batches of greek Easter cookies will also be baked today, ready to offer any visitors.
Another greek Easter tradition is to cook up a large batch of eggs and dye them red. These red eggs symbolize the blood of Christ as well as the eggs symbolizing a new life. A couple of these eggs will be placed in the tsoureki bread. A favorite game they play with the eggs is between two people, each one takes an egg in their hand, with one end of the egg sticking out. Taking it in turns with their partner, one will hit the opponents egg with their own egg. The person whose egg cracks first is the loser. The winner then goes on to another round with someone else and so on. This game with the red eggs – Kokkina Avga is called Tsougrisma.
On Good Friday or Holy Friday, this is a very holy day in the orthodox faith. It is a day of mourning and the church bells will ring slow and steady through the day. People will be flocking to the church at all times of the day for prayers. It is a day of no work, (or cooking). In the evening there will be processes around the local church.
Close to midnight on Easter Saturday, everyone makes their way to the local church for a wonderful outdoor church service at midnight.
Easter Sunday is a day of celebration, of the end of lent, of the resurrection of Christ and of life itself. There will be large gatherings at peoples homes, there will be a fear, with plenty of food and wine, song and dance and this will go on until late in the evening, it is such a wonderful day, no one wants it to end.
Source by Ann Pagomenos