Orthodox Easter this year in Greece falls on Sunday 2nd May.
For Greeks, Easter is the biggest holiday of the year, and they are ready to celebrate after many weeks of fasting and preparing for this special period.
If you are lucky enough to be in Greece during the Easter period it is a celebration you will never forget, regardless of your religious beliefs.
For the Greeks the preparation begins approximately 50 days before, on ‘Clean Monday” Καθαρη Δευτερα. A special day when families gather to east “fasting’ foods. No meat or cheese, but plenty of seafood, pulses and the traditional taramsalata and lagana bread. If the weather allows it, they fly their kites and the sky is full of amazing colours. From this day on Lent begins..
Every Friday evening they will then visit the church for the stations of the cross, reading to prepare them spiritually.
Big week – Μεγαλη Εβδομαδα – Holy week.
Although most Greeks will have been fasting for the period of Lent, Holy week is the strictest fasting period. Leading up to the huge celebration of the resurrection of Christ on Holy Saturday.
Church services go on morning and evening and some villages have extra tradionions.
Holy Thursday in some of the villages you will find the old ladies and the younger children plating bracelets from thin cord. These are usually in three colours. They are plated during the reading of the Gospels so to contain the good wishes from the church. On Holy Thursday the ladies of the house will boil and paint the eggs red. Symbolising the blood of Christ and rebirth after his resurrection.
On Holy Friday morning, the single girls gather in the village square to decorate the coffin of Jesus, with beautiful flowers. Preparing it for the evening Church services. In the evening, in some villages they light bonfires (to symbolise the Gospel reading where Jesus had been arrested and John denied knowledge of him). The fire is always lit as the reading of the gospel takes place in the church, and the villagers gather round and stay by the fire till the early hours, when the first ‘Anastasi’ (rebirth) begins.
Saturday morning the preparation for the feast after midnight mass begins. All around the villages you will feel the excitement building for the great event.
In the evening on Saturday, everyone dresses in their best clothes, and makes their way to the churches with their Easter candles. The churches are in darkness and the wait begins. The anticipation mounts for the holy light to be bought into the church from The Holy Land.
At the stroke of midnight the priests appear with the light and the faithful light their candles one from the other till there is a sea of candle light. The church service continues, and at the end the faithful return to their homes with their candles still lit to make the sign of the cross on the house for a good year ahead.
Then the celebration begins in each household. Eating and drinking and then the game of cracking eggs!
Sunday of Easter, the villages will awaken and start the next stage of the Easter celebration the roasting of the lamb on the spit. All around the air smells of the BBQ and people drop in to wish each other well. the men gather round the spit and the celebration heats up.
Xronia Polla Kalo Pasxa
Χρονια Πολλα Καλο Πασχα
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