GREEK EASTER TRADITIONS
The most important tradition begins on Holy Friday with the Epitaphios (a wooden bier-like structure holding an icon of Jesus) and its procession in the streets around the church. It is the saddest day of the entire year for Orthodox Christians because Christ is considered to be lying in his tomb after his crucifixion. On this day, bells ring multiple times throughout the day, and people head to church early to decorate the Epitaphios, a canopy holding the holy icon depicting the burial of the Christ, with flowers.
The Resurrection Service
On Holy Saturday, the tone is lighter, because Greeks are anticipating midnight, when Christ is resurrected. When the faithful go to church for the Resurrection, they hold white candles to receive the Holy Light. The white candle is a symbol of purity and hope. Children hold the Paschal Candle which is given to them by their godfather or godmother.
It is traditionally on Holy Thursday that people make the Easter brioche, also known as ‘tsoureki’. This sweet bread is usually braided with three pieces of dough, which represent the Holy Trinity, and spiced with mahleb. It is served with a red hardboiled egg in the middle.
The red eggs
The tradition of boiling and dyeing eggs on Holy Thursday in the red color symbolizes the rebirth of life and the blood of Christ.
Right after the Resurrection liturgy, Greeks will go home to eat the first meat that they have had in forty days. Magiritsa is a soup made from lamb offal, and tradition says it is the offal of the very lamb which is to be roasted on Sunday afternoon.
The tradition of tsougrisma, or the cracking of the eggs, can take place on Saturday evening or Easter Sunday, depending on each family’s traditions. It is a fun game for children and adults alike and symbolizes the resurrection of the Lord. Everyone chooses an egg and cracks it on top of another person’s egg. The one that ends up with a cracked egg is the loser. The game keeps going until there is only one winner, who is said to have good luck for the whole year.
The roasted lamb
Officially, Easter Sunday is the end of the 40-day fasting period, and it is celebrated with whole lambs roasting on a spit. Throughout the nation, lambs are roasted on a spit or for smaller families, in the oven. The choice of the lamb is representing Christ, the Holy Lamb of God. Families spend the day together eating, drinking and celebrating this special occasion with a lot of singing and dancing.