In te Greek Orthodox faith, Easter is the most sacred observance. The preparations and customs, including traditional foods and large feasts, remain an important part of modern Greek life.
Toward the end of Holy Week, which is between Palm Sunday and Easter, the preparations for Easter come to a climax. While each region may have its own local customs associated with Easter, there are several traditions that are observed by everyone.
In my beloved village of Karyes in Laconia (famously the sancuary of the goddess Artemis – and the village the caryatids were named after) we have many wonderful traditions.
- Holy Friday is a day of mourning and not one of work (including cooking). The Epitaph is decorated with fresh field flowers and it is carried through the village.
- When the Epitaph passes, women lay a tile with lit charcoal and incense next to their doors.
- On Holy Saturday, the Eternal Flame is brought to Greece by a 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. The pilot in the photo is our very own Floris Family Pilot, my nephew here Manolis shown here delivering “agio fos”, the holy light to islands all over Greece.
- On Great Tuesday, traditional Easter cookies are baked in local bakeries
- In Karyes, we also eat kourampiedes during Easter – a cookie that is traditionally eated during Christmas in the rest of Greece
- On Holy Thursday, the traditional Easter bread, tsoureki, is baked.
- Eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ. From ancient times, the red eggs have been a symbol of the renewal of life, carrying the message of the victory over death.
- On Great Saturday, Magiritsa is cooked. The traditional mayiritsa soup—which uses the organs and intestines of the lamb that will be roasted—is prepared. This will be eaten after the midnight service.
Godmother and Godfather Duties
In Greece, godparents are not only tasked with baptizing a child. They are responsible for guiding them in life and in faith – as well as pampering them! In the Greek Orthodox religion, Easter offers several godparent traditions.