Easter in Greece: Customs and Traditions

Easter in Greece: Customs and Traditions

Easter in Greece: Customs and Traditions

Easter is the most important religious holiday in Greece. It is celebrated with great solemnity throughout the Holy Week but great food too.

Easter in Greece: Customs and Traditions

There is something mystical about Easter in Greece. Although it marks the beginning of the spring, the Greek Orthodox Easter is the most significant religious holiday in the country. The preparations climax through the Holy Week and the celebrations seem to follow the steps of Christ from his death to his resurrection.

Holy Week Preparations

Lent starts 40 days before Easter on Kathara Deytera (Clean Monday) and although it is not followed strictly, most Greeks avoid eating meat and cheese at least throughout the Holy Week. This is not exactly an ordinary week. If you book a room at Agnantio Hotel – Spa in Sidirokastro, Serres, you will notice that the stores remain open all day long. Godparents rush to find presents for their godchildren – that’s a tradition. There are special church services with the Hymn of Kassia on Tuesday evening being one of the best. People bake tsoureki and dye eggs red on Holy Thursday, and make preparations for Easter Sunday.

The Epitaphios

On Good Friday, the atmosphere is gloomy due to the funeral of Christ and the church bells ring all day long in a mournful manner. People go to church around noon to bow down before the Epitaphios, which is decorated with beautiful flowers and later that night is carried in the streets of the community with the utmost solemnity. People follow carrying lit candles.

The Holy Light

And then, Holy Saturday comes. Throughout the day, people hurry to get the magiritsa soup ready and all the jobs done. Late in the evening, everyone goes to church. The crowd overflows the churches in anticipation of Christ’s resurrection. When the clock strikes midnight, the hymn of Christos Anesti (Christ is Risen) starts and the priests pass the Holy Light to the congregation. People kiss each other saying Christos Anesti while the other answers, Alithos Anesti (He Is Risen Indeed). Then, they go home to eat magiritsa and use the holy flame to mark the symbol of the cross at their threshold and thus bless their house.

Egg Fights, Tsoureki & Roasted Lamb

The traditional meal comes on Easter Sunday. The tables swamp with plenty of mezedes (hors d’oeuvres), roasted lamb, tsoureki, oven-baked potatoes and so much more. It all starts with egg tapping and that’s where all the fun is. Watch out for those little cheaters that use eggs made of marble to win.

Before you plan your trip to Greece, notice that the date of the Greek Easter is not always aligned with the Easter in other countries. If you take a trip in 2019, Easter is on April 28.