Greeks have a very strong connection to the celebration of Easter. It is considered to be the biggest feast of Christianity and a symbol of life winning over death. This is also the reason why there are a great variety of customs in every corner of Greece. Different ways of celebrations, different foods (although lamp on the spit is the main one), different dances etc.
Every little Greek village corner during Eastern time gets cleaned, plastered with lime and getting ready to welcome all visitors from the cities that are leaving their houses to celebrate Easter in their ancestral villages. Families and friends are gathered in groups to enjoy a 3-day festivity.
First, on Good Friday the epitaph’s procession is followed by the crowds who whisper with devoutness one of the most beautiful Christian hymns. Then, on Holy Saturday, Jesus’ resurrection is celebrated at midnight and the Holy Light from Jerusalem is dispensed to every single person holding a white candle in all churches throughout Greece. Fireworks are brightening up the sky and bells are chiming in every church throughout Greece.
You can only imagine the sound as the formal number of churches is 10.000, not to count small chapels. The island of Tinos has only 1.000 chapels alone. Finally, on Easter Sunday a big feast is happening on almost every yard, house, garden, village street, or terrace: lamps on the spit and other delicacies like kokoretsi or kontosouvli are the main courses of the day (images from previous Easters, taken on a mobile phone). Greek Easter is loud and happy!
Crack the egg!
Eggs, which are usually dyed red, are used to a game of “Crack the Egg”: a custom celebrated at every Greek Easter table. It involves two participants and two eggs: One participant holds their egg and the other player taps with the under end of their egg, the upper end of the first player’s egg. The goal is to crack the other participant’s egg. The winner, then, uses the same end of the egg to tap the other end of the opponent’s egg. The winner is the one, whose egg will crack the eggs of all the other participants. This is why you can see everyone choosing their eggs very carefully from the baskets. There are even some secrets in choosing them, but this is an Easter champion’s secret to tell another time! 😉
A different Easter
This year’s Easter is very different from any other time. Greeks are called not to visit churches, not to arrange gatherings, not to cook lamps on spits. This Easter calls for a totally different type of culture and puts Greeks in a very strange and tough spot. Easter is interwoven with gatherings in churches and festivities with friends and family. Every Greek Easter is celebrated with hugs and kisses, even between strangers in order to rejoice in Christ’s resurrection.
However, Greece is holding its head up and keeping its faith. People are celebrating by #stayingathome and using technology to keep personal distancing but also social solidarity. Families are creatively using their time to keep themselves busy and their spirits up. People have come together while being apart, and this is an important message to remember.
Celebrating by #stayingathome
I am also #stayingathome with my husband and restraining from visiting my mother and sister. Our routines have completely changed, but we have found a way to operate under these different circumstances. It is only normal to feel discomfort and uncertain, even stressed, but things will get better. We can hold on to our dreams for the future, we can hold on to our hopes for a bright future filled with affection, social gatherings, hugs, and kisses.
This is only temporary so to keep our health intact and protect our family and friends. We are fighting our fights from our homes and even though this might sound a bit trivial, it is not. We will crack our eggs and keep all our customs and share the love in a different way.
Greeks have so many sayings and wishes for every situation. Every single one of them has to do with health. So, these holy days, the usual wish is:
Καλό Πάσχα, με υγεία και αγάπη which translates to Happy Easter, with health and love.
I am wishing to my Christian orthodox friends out there a Happy Easter and to each and every one of you to let the light in and let it brighten your minds and souls. Better days are out there! Till then, stay safe!