Traditional Easter

Traditional Orthodox Easter in Northern Greece

No matter what your religious background, observing the Orthodox Easter in the Zagori villages is a colourful experience that touches all your senses. An experience that will stay with you for ever.

For the Greeks Easter is the most important of all religious holidays and is celebrated for a whole week. Preparations for Easter come to a climax toward the end of Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and Easter. While there are many local customs associated with Easter, there are several observed by all:

Holy (or Great) Thursday

Easter preparations begin on Holy Thursday when the traditional Easter bread, tsoureki, is baked, and eggs are dyed red (red is the color of life as well as a representation of the blood of Christ). From ancient times, the egg has been a symbol of the renewal of life, and the message of the red eggs is victory over death.

Holy (or Great) Friday

The holiest day of Holy Week is Holy Friday. It is a day of mourning, not of work (including cooking). It is also the only day during the year when the Divine Liturgy is not read. Flags are hung at half-mast and church bells ring all day in a slow mournful tone.

Holy (or Great) Saturday

On Holy Saturday, the Eternal Flame is brought to Greece by military jet, and is distributed to waiting Priests who carry it to their local churches. The event is always televised and if there’s a threat of bad weather or a delay, the entire country agonizes until the flame arrives safely. On the morning of Holy Saturday, preparations begin for the next day’s Easter feast.

Easter Sunday

At dawn (or earlier) on Easter Sunday, the spits are set to work, and grills are fired up. The customary main attraction of the day is whole roasted lamb or goat (kid) to represent the Lamb of God, however many prefer oven and stovetop lamb or kid dishes.

Easter is the primary act that fulfills the purpose of Christ’s ministry on earth—to defeat death by dying and to purify and exalt humanity by voluntarily assuming and overcoming human frailty. This is succinctly summarized by the Paschal troparion, sung repeatedly during Christian Passover until the Apodosis of Easter, which is the day before Ascension:

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη ἐκ νεκρῶν,
θανάτῳ θάνατον πατήσας,
καὶ τοῖς ἐν τοῖς μνήμασι
ζωὴν χαρισάμενος.

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!

Following are some photographs from the Easter of 2012 in Dilofo village in the Zagori.

 

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