In less than a month it is Easter! This year the Christian Catholic and Greek Christian Orthodox Easter coincide. This happens only once in the four years. Most of you know the reason why I started Chove. Because I want to share with you the experience of the amazing Greek delicacies, glyka with you. However, this is not the only thing I want to share with you. What I also want to share with you is some of the unique customs and traditions you can find in Greece. One of them, is Greek Easter! An amazing festivity. As mentioned in a former blog, customs, traditions and being Greek have become one throughout the years. In general the majority of the Greek population celebrates those moments either they believe in God or not.
One of the greatest celebrations in the Christian Orthodox calendar is Easter. How we arrive to the Easter celebrations? We start back in the winter. Below you will find some explanations in short.
Carnival – Apokries
A festivity during which now we disguise ourselves in the most crazy costumes. Actually in Greece, those are the last days to eat meat. Because carnival in Greek is called apokries which comes from the words ‘apo’ meaning from and ‘kreas’ meat. Taking distance from the meat.
Aside to this part there is also a logic to why this happened during this time of year. In the early years, folks would slaughter animals for the winter and as the winter came to an end the last pieces of meat would be eaten. Then a period of downtime would come as the little ones needed to be born first until the circle could start again.
40 Days before Easter – Clean Monday (Kathari Theftera)
Around 7 weeks before Easter the fasting period starts. This happens on the first Monday after carnival.
This Monday is called Clean Monday, in Greek ‘Kathari Theftera’. Then it is a day off in Greece. Everyone meets up with friends and family, having lunch and dinner but without meat and milk products. Those 40 days resemble the 40 days that Jesus walked through the dessert. Fasting is seen as the period to clean ones soul. Aside to this on Clean Monday, the sky looks amazing! It is full of colours. Colours of the flying kites. It is said that kites go back to the 4th century that according historians was developed by Pithagoras. Next to this it is seen as an object with which you can come closer up to God. Of course delicacies are not missed from the table, but those ones are without diary products, one of them is the treat chalvas. This is a desert especially for the fasting period.
40 days have passed and the Big Week, Megali Evdomada in Greek, starts. If you wish you can go every day at the church where you can listen to the psalms. Every day in this week gets the name ‘Big’ in front of it. So, you have Big Monday, Big Tuesday, et cetera.
This is the day that the eggs are dyed red and the brioches (tsoureki) are put in the oven. Which symbolizes the rebirth of life and nature.
This is the day that Jesus, Christ, is said to be buried. The ceremony is called the Epitaph during which it is said to be the deposition of the body of Jesus to his burial, the Epitaph. This is actually the burial ceremony of Jesus. The Epitaph is being decorated with flowers. During the evening the procession takes place with chanters throughout the streets of the cities and villages. The final destination is the graveyard where Jesus is buried.
3 days after his death, Jesus is said to resurrect. To celebrate this moment, people gather before midnight in church holding white candles. Children receive candles in various colours with a present on them by their godmother or – father. Usually accompanied by a chocolate egg or bunny. At exactly midnight the priest declares that Jesus has resurrected. This is accompanied by a lot of fireworks. He proclaims it by ‘Christos Anesti’, (Christ has risen) and shares the Holy light that is said to come from his grave. The archbishop namely goes that day to Jerusalem to get the light out of the graveyard. You can see this on the news on TV where they show that the Holy Light is transferred from place to place to finally arrive at all the churches of Greece. When the Holy light is given to one another at midnight people wish each other the following. ‘Chirstos Anesti’ (Christ has risen) and get the answer ‘Alithos Anesti’ (He has truly risen). After this moment, Judas, the betrayer is burned. A human size doll is being burned with fireworks on the background.
The same night magiritsa is being eaten (a tripe and herb soup) and red eggs are cracked. Most people take the Holy light with them home. Because upon arrival they will put a cross with the flames of the candle on the front door of the house. This is done to keep the bad away from the house.
Easter Sunday & Monday
On both first and second day of Easter, families and friends gather to have lunch together and celebrate this day. It is the end of fasting. Traditional food is served. This is lamb on the spit which has been prepared throughout the whole morning until noon accompanied with potatoes and Greek salad on the side. The atmosphere is festive, full of joy, dances and excitement and yes some broken plates too on the floor ;)
The Easter period is to me very special. It is a very colourful period. A lot happens in such a short time. Whenever I am in Greece I realize that this is a very special and unique celebration which I am glad to share with you. It is really worth it to once have this experience as it so different than others either you believe or not in God. This year I will be there again!
Be with the ones you love during amazing days like those above.
Enjoy every moment!
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