Easter is the most important holiday of the year for the people of Greece. Easter is always in Spring and nature is most beautiful at that time.
In the Orthodox Church the feast of Easter is officially called Pascha, the word which means the Passover. It is the eternal Passover from death to life and from earth to heaven.
People gather in church every evening throughout Holy Week, especially on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and on Holy Saturday, the night of the Resurrection.
Christ on the cross Epitaphios Lamb on the spit for Easter Sunday
Kokoretsi, the lamb’s liver wrapped with the intestines
Good Friday, the Procession of the Bier
Good Friday is a day of mourning. The drama of the death of Christ is followed with great devoutness. The icon of Christ is taken off the cross, wrapped in linen and put it in the Bier (Epitafios) symbolizing the tomb of Christ.
Late at night the bier is carried through the town or village. A band or choir playing or singing solemn music precedes the procession; they are followed by the cantors, the clergy, women bearing myrrh, the altar boys carrying the liturgical fans, scouts and guides, and the people of the region, who sing the hymns throughout the procession. All along its route, people scatter flowers and perfumes on the epitaphios (bier), holding lighted candles in their hands.
There is something special about this night. The air is full of the scent of flowers, it is still but not heavy, there is a melancholic feeling all over but there is also something different. There is a feeling of stillness, emptiness, calmness and the hearts seem to open to accept the Love of Jesus’ sacrifice. This is more likely to experience in a small village but it is obvious also in bigger towns in the more remote and quiet neighborhoods.
The Resurrection of Christ
On Holy Saturday evening, the Resurrection mass takes place. One hour before midnight everybody goes to the church, each carrying an unlit candle. The churches are crowded and it is not uncommon for many people to stay outside of the church. The mass can be heard from loudspeakers placed outside of the church.
Later during the mass, all lights in the church will be turned off and then the priest will exit the altar with a candle lit by the Holy Light. The Holy Light is transferred by plane from Jerusalem, where it appears in a miraculous way in the Holy Sepulchre (Tomb of Christ).
The Holy Light is distributed by the priest to all people in and out of the church. If people can get back home without their flame going out it, is said they will have a good year.
A few minutes before midnight everybody together with the priest exits the church and, exactly at midnight, the priest announces the resurrection of Christ (Christos Anesti):
"Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life"
At that moment fireworks and crackers go off and the dark night is filled with light and colourful explosions. Families and relatives kiss each other and wish "Hronia Polla". This is the time that Judas is burned. A human-sized doll made of old clothes is burned symbolizing the burning of Judas.
After this, everybody goes home for the traditional mageiritsa soup. If their candles are still burning, they use the smoke of the candle to draw a cross on the doorway. This is for the protection of the house for the coming year.
After the Resurrection of Christ (Anastasi), the Easter Lent is finished and Christians may eat animal products again. Their first dinner includes the mageiritsa soup.
Mageiritsa is a soup served only this night and it is made of the lamb’s internal organs: liver, heart, lungs and intestines with an egg-lemon sauce.
After having the soup, red eggs are cracked. Every member of the family will choose an egg and then try to crack the eggs of the others with his own. At the end, only one egg will remain uncracked and the owner will have good luck.
On Easter Sunday friends and family gather in homes, eating lamb on the spit, kokoretsi and kalitsounia. Red eggs are cracked again. It is a big feast, sometimes followed by dancing.
Red eggs at Pascha (Easter):
During Easter Day the egg stands as symbol of the resurrection of Christ, and is universally used as means of Christian greeting and present.
After the Ascension of our Saviour, Mary Magdalene went to Rome to preach the Gospel and, appearing before the Emporer Tiberius, she offered him a red egg, saying: CHRIST IS RISEN.”
Hence, eggs began to be used by Christians in the earliest centuries as a symbol of the Resurrection of Christ and of the regeneration of Christians for a new and a better life along [with] it. The custom of presenting each other with red eggs was familiar to the Christians of the earliest Universal Church.
The red color, which generally is used for Easter eggs, serves to remind us of the precious blood of God the Redeemer, which was shed on the cross for the salvation of all men.
The blessing of the eggs takes place after the morning Easter service. The breaking of the lenten fasting on Easter Sunday begins with eating the blessed eggs.
Greek Words for Easter
Pascha = Easter
Kalo Pascha = Happy Easter
Tessarakosti or Sarakosti = Easter Lent
Nistia = Fasting
Megali Evdomada = Holy Week
Megali Pempti = Holy Thursday
Megali Paraskevi = Good Friday
Megalo Savato = Holy Saturday
Anastasi = Resurrection
Epitaphios = Epitaph, Bier
Agio Fos = Holy Light
Papas = Priest
Ekklisia = Church
Keri = Candle
Arni = Lamb
thalassina = seafood
htapodi = octopous
kalamarakia = calamares, squids
taramosalata = egg-fish salad. It looks like a pink paste.
ntolmadakia = vine leaves stuffed with rice
pantzaria = beetroots
fasolia = beans
salata = salad
Hronia Polla = It is common to wish this to all your friends for a few days after Resurrection