While much has changed about the Greece’ s way of life over the last years, Easter remains the major celebration of the year. From the smallest rural village to the hectic Athens, from Crete to Thessaloniki, families and friends come together to celebrate that deeply religious occasion, which takes place on the first Sunday after the full moon of the spring equinox. On the Saturday one week before Easter Sunday (this year Easter is on the 1st of May) is dedicated to the Raising of Lazarus (the 3rd miracle of Jesus). The following day -Palm Sunday- churches are decorated with plants called “vaia/ vagia” and people go to churches and celebrate the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.
The week leading up to Easter is Holy Week. During this period, church services are held every day and fasting grows even stricter, with dairy products and even olive oil excluded from the diet. Homes are spring cleaned, eggs are hardboiled and painted red and the traditional Easter delicacies known as “tsourekakia” and “kalitsounia” are prepared. “Kalitsounia” are traditional delicacies from Crete and are small pastries with a white soft cheese called “mizithra”, egg, honey and cinnamon filling. They are usually triangular or square. Shops will also erect their decoration that week, which typically include colorful eggs and bunnies.
Good Friday, the day of the Crucifixion, is the holiest day in the Orthodox calendar. In the morning, the faithful go to church where they decorate with flowers the “Epitafios” – a canopy beneath which the icon of Christ is laid in state. At lunchtime, a soup of lentils and vinegar is eaten, which is representative of Christ’ s walk to Calvary, when he asked for water but was given vinegar instead. In the evening, the priest leads a procession carrying the “Epitafios” around the local community. Saturday is a day of quiet reflection until the late evening when people gather at church for the midnight mass. All who attend carry a candle and when it is announced “deyte lavete fws-come receive the light” the congregation light their candles. At the stroke of midnight the priest chant “Christ is Risen-Christos Anesti!” and the congregation reply “Alithos Anesti-truly he is risen!”. Outside bonfires are lit and fireworks are released. People walk home, carefully trying to keep their candle alight. If they manage to do that, they will be lucky for the rest of the year. Once home, families traditionally enjoy a bowl of “mageiritsa” – a special soup. Easter Sunday is a day of great celebration. Families and friends come together and they celebrate and party with tables full of greek delicacies. The main dish is lamb, representing the “Lamb of God” who was sacrified and rose again at Easter. The Sunday celebration lasts through the day. Each person takes a red egg and challengers attempt to crack each others’ egg. The breaking of egg meant to symbolize Christ breaking from the Tomb. The person whose egg lasts the longest is assured good luck for the rest of the year.