The Greek Easter in a nutshell

Hello fellow students,

It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog, but I was really busy with my assignments for my classes. I have officially finished my courses and I am really excited for the summer semester in which I will do my internship and my dissertation. Although, now that I have some time, I thought that it would be interesting to inform you about the Greek Easter traditions.

While Easter time has already taken place in the UK, in Greece, it is happening at the beginning of May, and it’s one of the most important celebrations of the whole Orthodox church.

The first thing that you should know about the Orthodox Easter is that according to the church, you should not eat meat or fish for 40 days before Easter but not everyone fasts this way. Most people just fast during Holy Week, the Christian observance commemorating the Passion of Jesus Christ, which takes place between Palm Sunday and Easter. Each day symbolizes something different, and before Covid we used to go to church every day during this week.

In different parts of Greece, they have different traditions about how they celebrate Easter and the rituals that they do during Holy Week. Corfu is one of the Ionian islands that is very popular for its Easter traditions (I did a whole project last year about that).

On Holy Thursday, we go to church with flowers, so that the girls of the church can decorate later at night the epitaph of Christ. At 10pm as the lights inside the church are dimming the priest walks around the church with a very big cross. Also, we dye eggs red which symbolize the blood of Christ.

Next day, we have the litany of the epitaph. In the morning, we go to church and pay our respects at the epitaph of Christ and during the afternoon, we do the litany which takes approximately an hour. In some places, they do things differently. In Zante, the litany takes place in early morning of Saturday. At 4am, people gather in the cathedral of Saint Dionisios and during this event, they have the chance of seeing the sunrise.

At midnight on Saturday, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and we are able to eat meat. According to tradition, people go to church again between 11-11.30pm, take the holy light that comes out of Jesus’ grave and wait until the priest says that Jesus Christ was resurrected or “Xristos Anesti ek nekron”. After that, we go home, eat the traditional Magiritsa and break the red eggs. Most Greeks used to go out to nightclubs after that.

On the Sunday morning families gather in their yards in villages or even in the city and set up grills to make a whole roasted lamb, which represents the lamb of God. Some people make lamb (or goat) in the oven. Also, another very popular Easter dish is Kokoretsi, which is made by the innards of the lamb and other animals and is roasted in the same way as lamb.

If you ever have the chance to visit Greece during Easter, you should do it. It’s a unique experience and every place has its own traditions.