Greek Orthodox Easter Traditions

Greek Orthodox Easter Traditions

Holy Easter is one of the most important religious celebrations in Greece.

It is characterised by great devoutness and strong orthodox faith!

Greek customs are characterized by long family preparations and remain some of the most traditional in modern Greek life.

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, the so called in Greek “tsureki” is baked, and boiled eggs are dyes in red colour (red is the colour 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 Thursday evening, church services include a symbolic representation of the crucifixion, and the period of mourning begins. In many villages – and in cities as well – women will sit in church throughout the night, in traditional mourning.

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. Even in the radio, the playlists are included by classical music mainly.

Many devout do not cook on Holy Friday, but if they do, traditional foods are simple, perhaps boiled in water (no oil) and seasoned with vinegar – like beans – or thin soups.

Traditionally, women and children take flowers to the church to decorate the Epitaphio (the symbolic bier of Christ). The Service of Lamentation mourns the death of Christ and the bier, decorated lavishly with flowers and bearing the image of Christ, is carried on the shoulders of the faithful in a procession through the community to the cemetery, and back. Members of the congregation follow, carrying candles.

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 all over the country 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. Dishes that can be prepared in advance are made, and the mayiritsa soup is prepared, which will be eaten after the midnight service, to end up the fast.

The midnight Service of the Resurrection is an occasion attended by everyone who is able, including children, each holding a white candle.Special candles made for Easter are called “labatha” (lah-BAH-thah) and are often given as gifts to children from their parents or God-parents. These candles can be lavishly decorated with favorite children’s heroes or storybook characters, and may be as much as three feet tall, but the candle itself is usually white. These candles are only used for one Easter midnight service.

In our cover photo , Christian Orthodox worshippers hold up candles lit from the ‘Holy Fire’ as thousands of Orthodox Christians gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 26, 2008 during the Orthodox Easter ceremony of the ‘Holy Fire’. The ceremony celebrated in the same way for 11 centuries, is marked by the appearance of ‘sacred fire’ in the two cavities on either side of the Holy Sepulchre. The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is the site of the final resting place of Jesus Christ, according to Christian tradition.

Filled Under : Greek Customs and Traditions

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