Does the Easter bunny visit Greece to hide colorful eggs on Easter? Is Greek Easter celebrated at the same time as Catholic Easter? What are some common Greek Easter traditions? Today Helinika answers some of the most common questions regarding Greek Easter celebrations.
What Is The Greek Easter?
Greece celebrates Christian holidays according to Christian Orthodox traditions. Orthodoxy, along with Catholicism and Protestantism, is one of the three main Christian groups. And it is most prevalent in Eastern Europe. Easter is a very important religious celebration among all Christian groups; it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the victory of life over death.
Greek Easter Dates: When Do Greeks Celebrate Easter?
Just like most Christian countries, Greece celebrates Easter on the Sunday that follows the Spring or Paschal full moon. The main difference here is that, when it comes to Easter, the Orthodox Church follows the Julian instead of the Gregorian calendar. That means that Easter in Greece normally falls between the 4th of April and the 8th of May. Since the other two prominent Christian groups follow the Gregorian calendar, Catholic and Protestant Easter rarely coincide with Orthodox Easter.
How Is “Easter” Called in Greek?
The Greek name for Easter is “Πάσχα” (Pascha), a term that derives from the Jewish word “Pesach”, meaning “Passover”. That is because Easter is celebrated after the Jewish Passover and it is always calculated based on the Paschal full moon.
Other Greek names for Easter are “Λαμπρή” (Labri), meaning “bright” or “glowing”, and “Ανάσταση” (Anastasi), meaning “Resurrection”.
Is It Common to Fast Before Greek Easter?
Orthodox Christians are required to go through a mental and physical preparation that lasts 40 days and ends with the Anastasi. This preparation, known as Lent in other countries, includes a type of fasting. Greeks try to eliminate thoughts and actions of hate and violence from their daily lives. They also exclude certain food groups from their diet – mostly animal products. This fasting is called “nistea” and Greek restaurants and shops always include nistea-friendly foods during this period.
Today, many people choose to exclude meat and dairy from their diet only during the last week before Easter Sunday. That is the “Evdomada ton Pathon” or “Megali Evdomada” – which is called “Holy Week” in English. Once the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is announced in the early hours of Easter Sunday, the nistea ends. People are free to celebrate by consuming foods that are high in proteins and fats, such as eggs and lamb.
What is the Holy Fire or Hagio Phos?
On the Eve of Easter Sunday, just before midnight, Greek Orthodox Christians visit their local Church holding flameless candles. Children usually receive their candles from their godparents, along with other treats. Believers gather at the church awaiting the Resurrection and the Hagio Phos or Holy Fire.
The Holy Fire is a recurring miracle that occurs every year in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem, at the place where it is believed that Jesus was buried and resurrected. Believers await the fire that lights spontaneously on this exact spot every Holy Saturday. The flame is then transported to Greece by a special flight and received by Church and state leaders in a ceremonial way. It is then distributed all over Greece and given to the masses by the priests at midnight. Since the priests can’t light each individual’s candle, each person receives the flame from one another – an act that symbolizes the unity of the group.
Does The Easter Bunny Come to Greece?
No, the Easter Bunny and the hunting for colorful eggs is not a Greek Easter tradition. Children rarely receive chocolate Easter bunnies during that time. On the contrary, they receive chocolate eggs from their godparents, along with their Easter candles.
Although painting eggs is a Greek Easter tradition, you will rarely see pink, green, or patterned eggs. The only color that is deemed traditional is the color of blood: dark red. This color symbolizes life and it is the most appropriate color for the celebration of the victory of life over death.
What Are Some Common Greek Easter Traditions?
There are many Greek Easter traditions that have survived to this day. For example. Just moments after the announcement of the Resurrection on the night before Easter Sunday, it is common to light the sky with fireworks. In some places, some unique events take place, such as an exchange of “rockets” between local churches (you can see them all on our dedicated page).
Most traditions, however, revolve around food. After the Anastasi, it is common to eat “Mageiritsa”, a soup made of lamb and vegetables. On Easter Sunday, it is a tradition to roast lamb with the whole family in the countryside. It is also common to play a game by trying to crack each other’s hard-boiled eggs by lightly tapping them against each other.
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Marialena Perpiraki is a journalist and writer from Athens, Greece. In 2020, she founded Helinika as a cross-media platform.
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