Easter has passed already for us Dutchies this year but the Greek Orthodox Easter is yet to come. But the dates aren’t the only differences. Nowadays Easter mainly means a day off for in the and dinners with the family in the Netherlands, but for Greeks, it is the most important holiday of the year. How the Greeks celebrate Easter and why this is (usually) later than our Easter feast, I tell you today.
The difference starts with the religion. In the Netherlands, we celebrate Catholic Easter while in Greece the Orthodox Easter is celebrated. Two different religions and therefore it is also differently celebrated. Both holidays are always on the first Sunday after the full moon, after the beginning of Spring. However, both religions use a different calendar counting. For Catholic Easter, the Gregorian calendar is used, while for Orthodox Easter they use the Julian calendar.
The Greek traditions actually start already 40 days before Easter. Greeks fast a period of 40 days prior to Easter Day. This fasting is also called Sarakosti. In the period they do not eat dairy products, eggs, meat or fish (I’ve heard that only crustaceans and squid are allowed). Nowadays, not everyone strictly adheres to this tradition, especially in the cities, but in many (small) villages it still happens. In the Great week, the week before Easter, people do fast strictly.
The Great week
A week before Easter the Great week starts. It starts on Sunday with Palm Sunday and then you have Great Monday, Great Tuesday etc. On Saturday before Easter, it is Silent Saturday. Every day this week has a special meaning and church masses are held every evening. Great Friday (for us Good Friday) is the day of mourning, but on Holy Saturday, when Christ rises, it really is a celebration. there is a church service where the church bells ring loudly and there are fireworks. In this week all preparations are also being made. Houses are being cleaned and painted and they decorate streets, houses, and churches. The famous dish Tsoureki (Easter bread) is also made. The Easter day itself is mainly about eating and drinking with the whole family. Being together is really important and once again: Greek celebrate big! Important during the feast meal are the red-painted eggs, Magiritsa (a soup of vegetables and guts) and of course the lamb on the spit.
So now you know more about the Greek Orthodox Easter and how the Greeks celebrate Easter. Kalo Pascha!
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