Easter Traditions of the Greek Orthodox Faith
Preparations and customs for Easter in the Greek Orthodox faith are very important, as Easter is the most sacred holiday for Greeks.
Holy Week, which is between Palm Sunday and Easter, are when the preparations begin and end. Everyone observes many customs during this time.
Holy (or Great) Thursday is when preparations begin. The traditional Easter bread, tsoureki, is baked and eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ. The first dyed red egg is sometimes placed along with icons to ward off evil. Also on Holy Thursday, it is during evening hours when the period of mourning begins in the churches. There is a symbolic representation of the crucifixion.
Holy (or Great) Friday is considered a day of mourning and a time where there is no work, even including cooking. If food is cooked however, it is traditional and simple, such as beans or thin soups such as tahinosoupa. It is during Holy Friday where the Service of Lamentation is observed, where a procession is lead to the cemetery and congregation members follow carrying candles.
Holy (or Great) Saturday includes the tradition of the Eternal Flame, brought by military jet and distributed to priests who then give it to the local churches. It is during Holy Saturday where the preparations begin for Easter Sunday’s feast. Dishes such as the traditional mayiritsa soup are made to be eaten after the midnight service to break the fast. Additionally, there are candles called “labatha” which are given to children from parent or Godparents. Right before midnight in the churches there is only light from the Eternal Flame on the altar. The flame is then passed from the priest, who calls out “Christos Anesti”, to members of the congregation until the church is filled with candlelight.
It is on Easter Sunday when the real feast begins. Lamb and goat are roasted on the spit or grills, though ovens are also popular. Greek wines, ouzo and other drinks are served generously. The celebrations last until late at night.