6 Greek Easter Traditions and religious hymns that accompany the Holy Week days before Saturday of the resurrection of Jesus.

Easter is celebrated all over the mainland and on the islands, it is a family celebration as well as being the most significant time in the Greek Orthodox Church. For the church it is a celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ, and also dating from ancient times it marks the changing seasons and the arrival of spring. The date of Easter in Greece is marked by the Grecian calendar and so does not fall at the same time as Easter in other European countries.

The Holy Week, or Easter week, including Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are all public holidays in Greece. Families get together and people enjoy a holiday air, and there are many wonderful food traditions that Greeks follow around Easter time.

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About Easter

Easter, also called Pascha (Greek, Latin) or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day after his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a 40-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

Most Christians refer to the week before Easter as “Holy Week”, which contains the days of the Easter Triduum, including Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Maundy and Last Supper,as well as Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus. In Western Christianity, Eastertide, or the Easter Season, begins on Easter Sunday and lasts seven weeks, ending with the coming of the 50th day, Pentecost Sunday. In Eastern Christianity, the season of Pascha begins on Pascha and ends with the coming of the 40th day, the Feast of the Ascension.

Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts which do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars which follow only the cycle of the Sun; rather, its date is offset from the date of Passover and is therefore calculated based on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established two rules, independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity, which were the only rules for Easter explicitly laid down by the council. No details for the computation were specified; these were worked out in practice, a process that took centuries and generated a number of controversies. It has come to be the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March. Even if calculated on the basis of the more accurate Gregorian calendar, the date of that full moon sometimes differs from that of the astronomical first full moon after the March equinox.

Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In most European languages the feast is called by the words for passover in those languages; and in the older English versions of the Bible the term Easter was the term used to translate passover.Easter customs vary across the Christian world, and include sunrise services, exclaiming the Paschal greeting, clipping the church,[15] and decorating Easter eggs (symbols of the empty tomb). The Easter lily, a symbol of the resurrection,traditionally decorates the chancel area of churches on this day and for the rest of Eastertide.Additional customs that have become associated with Easter and are observed by both Christians and some non-Christians include egg hunting, the Easter Bunny, and Easter parades. There are also various traditional Easter foods that vary regionally.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter

Tradition #1: Baking Tsoureki & Dying Red Eggs

On Thursday evening, all of the Greeks prepare for the Holy Weekend. Everybody makes the delicious sweet Easter bread, called Tsoureki (or buys it from the bakery because it’s very difficult). This is eaten on Easter as the three braid of the bread represent the Holy Trinity. Many people even cut into the shape of a cross. Additionally, eggs are being boiled and dyed red. (See Tradition #4 to learn more about the importance of the Red Eggs.)

Friady: An Akathist Hymn (Greek: Ἀκάθιστος Ὕμνος, “unseated hymn”) is a type of hymn usually recited by Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic Christians, dedicated to a saint, holy event, or one of the persons of the Holy Trinity. The name derives from the fact that during the chanting of the hymn, or sometimes the whole service, the congregation is expected to remain standing in reverence, without sitting down (ἀ-, a-, “without, not” and κάθισις, káthisis, “sitting”), except for the aged or infirm.

Tradition #2: Church Bells, Flags, Tomb of Jesus

On Good Friday, there is a sombre atmosphere and the church bells ring and flags fly half mast, and in some villages a shrine representing the tomb of Jesus is carried in the streets.  This sad mood is soon broken in true Greek style, with lots of eating and singling and loud noise.

“Thou, who art the Life, were placed in a tomb” From the Lamentations of Holy Friday

“Thou, who art the Life, were placed in a tomb” From the Lamentations of Holy Friday

One of the prettiest and sweetest hymns chanted today for the Epitaphios is called “My sweet Srping”, sung by the Virgin Mary over her Son’s dead body.

Lyrics in Greek and English

“Thou, who art the Life, were placed in a tomb” From the Lamentations of Holy Friday

Lyrics in Greek and English

Tradition #3: Midnight Church Service & Candles

Late on Saturday night, before midnight all the people go to all the churches, which all seem full to bursting. Then follows a festival of light that is a true delight – at midnight the church goes dark and the bells ring out to proclaim the resurrection, and people start cheering and letting off fireworks and crackers! The Greeks young and old buy or make their own Easter candles which they take to the church on this night. The priest lights a candle representing of Jesus’ eternal flame and everyone lights their candle from this one. People carefully carry their candle home and make a black cross on their house with the flame to bless themselves.

ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ|Christos Anesti

Christ is Risen

Tradition #4: Red Egg Cracking

Afterwards, they return to their homes and the families sit together at the table to have the festive dinner! They always start with cracking the red eggs with each other, which symbolizes the risen Christ’s blood.  Everyone selects one egg, carefully choosing the one that seems the strongest. Then the egg cracking begins! One cracks their chosen egg on top of another’s chosen eggs, saying “Christos Anesti” (meaning “Christ has risen”). The other one responds, “Alithos Anesti” (meaning “Indeed, he did!”). Each time there is a winner and loser. Loser is obviously the one with the cracked egg. The egg cracking keeps on going, until there is only one winner- the chosen one with the un-cracked egg! The one with the strongest egg is said the have good luck for the whole year

Tradition #5: Eating Magiritsa

After the egg cracking, they start eating the traditional magiritsa! This dish contains the offal of the lamb just before it is roasted, along with some green vegetables (lettuce, dill and onion) boiled together. It is traditional to eat magiritsa because it symbolizes the end of the 40-day fast Greek Orthodox people have right before this day in order to mourn the death of Jesus. This feast of drinking and eating lasts till the early hours, sleeping only to get up and make the Easter Sunday lunch.

Tradition #6: Roasting the Lamb

The Easter Sunday is another day to celebrate. Families gather again before noon to roast the lamb on a spit and then enjoy a long lunch with lots of meat, potatoes, salads and drinks.



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