Easter in Greece

Easter in Greece

Author : Bianca Ghikas 2011

Greek Easter is based on the modified Julian calendar, whereas the western churches use the Gregorian calendar and therefore not always coincides with other Christian Easter, only once every four years the concur. In 2011 Easter Sunday falls on April 27th.

The celebration is onset by the “Apokries” (carnivals to many other countries, or Mardi Grass) then is followed by a 40 day period of fasting, the resurrection of Christ and Easter Sunday.  It is an ongoing celebration for the whole period of time, coupled by the onset of spring. Easter in Greece is a marvelous and quite spiritual holiday regardless of your beliefs.  It satisfies all your senses!

The origins of Easter are related to the Jewish Passover, or Pesach, In Greek Easter is called “Pascha”; Passover itself originated from spring festivals celebrating a new life. Jesus was crucified during the Jewish Passover week and thereby Easter and Passover coincide, the only difference is in the calendars being used by each religion. Interestingly and to strengthen the association between Easter and Passover, on Easter Sunday a lamb is roasted in Greece, In ancient times the Jewish nation sacrificed a lamb to celebrate Passover. And Passover actually means passing on from one life to the next.

Easter it is the most important religious festivity in Greece and like such it is accompanied by numerous pageantries, on Good Friday the epitaph is paraded and brought back to the Church, I was part of the procession at Pirgos, Santorini this year and it was amazing, what an experience.  The whole mountain (Pirgos is the highest peak in the island) was lit by hundreds of small fires, the procession went on throughout the town and people standing by were spraying the masses with cologne, the smell of incense was thick in the air. My very first procession ever, what an amazing experience!

In Athens these processions are common place in many areas but if you are lucky to be in a small town or in an island it is a totally different experience.  Every region every town every island the experience although similar it varies greatly.

On Saturday night the priest give the light to the crowds at midnight, this light arrives from Jerusalem brought in by the High Curia by Olympic Air, upon receiving the light there is a lot of chanting and everyone says “Christos Anesti” Christ has risen! After the ceremonial rites everyone goes home to eat magiritsa and to crack red eggs, the egg that remains unhurt is said to bring good fortune to the person that hold it.; before you hit the other persons egg you must say “Christos Anesti” and the other person replies “Alithos Anesti” (truly risen). After the midnight meal many people goes to celebrate with the sounds of bouzouki.

On Easter Sunday, especially in small towns, the smell of roast lamb and kokkoretzi fills the air, while roasting a whole lamb and the Kokkoretzi it is customary to drink ouzo as well.  The few people that remain in Athens and the larger cities roast the lamb in the oven and have family parties.

This video was made by dearest friend Nikos Korakakis owner and videographer of





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