Wednesday, May 15, 2013

That Easter in Greece ~

We may never experience another Easter like the one in Greece. . .

Sfakia2Amster2013 046Greek Orthodox Easter is considered more important there than Christmas. We were fortunate this year to be in Crete and experience first-hand Easter Sunday, May 5th.

As with any holiday, decorations and preparations were the prelude to the event. This Easter wreath decorated a restaurant entry in Chora Sfakia, the small harbor town on Crete’s southwestern coast where we spent part of Easter Week.






Holy Thursday – Megali Pempti

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In the early evening, as we walked past our favorite bakery, run by our friend Niki and her husband, in Chora Sfakia, she invited us in to see the production of Kalitsounia, the special cheese pies made for Easter. 

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Her mom, pictured with her above, was taking the lead on the baking. Her sister, on the right, was also called into duty.

Sfakia2Amster2013 060We were honored by getting to sample some from the first batch out of the oven.

(I must tell you – this was one of the highlights of the trip!)






Holy Friday – Megali Parskievi

In the early afternoon, not long after we disembarked the ferry that  - in 30 minutes - had taken us further west along the coast to the small village of Loutro ; the place we would celebrate Easter, we couldn't help but notice that ‘Judas’ had been strung up on the beach awaiting his Saturday night fate.

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As we sipped a libation late Friday night at one of the waterfront cafes, the sound of chanting alerted us to an approaching  processional.

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Led by the priest, along Loutro’s ‘main street’, (a sidewalk bisecting  the waterfront businesses and cafes), a flower covered  Kouvouklion, representing Christ’s tomb, was carried to the ferry landing where additional prayers were said before it was carried back to the church.

Among the Easter traditions. . .

Sfakia2Amster2013 167Easter eggs are dyed a deep rich red, signifying the blood of Christ, most are plain but this basket’s eggs had religious images on them).
They weren’t made of chocolate nor were they hidden as part of a children’s game – they were eaten as part of the traditional Easter feasts on Saturday night and Sunday.

Holy Saturday – Megali Savato

The traditional Easter feast features roast lamb. And by late afternoon  Saturday the air was thick throughout the village with the smell of wild thyme and oregano-scented roasting meat being prepared for the late night feasting that would take place at every restaurant. (The front skewer is filled with pork, peppers and onions.)

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Sfakia2Amster2013 111Judas was hanging not far from the church, where the Saturday‘midnight’ (actual time 9:15 p.m.) service was held.

At the conclusion of the service, the bell clanged repeatedly as its rope was pulled, announcing the Priest’s proclamation: “CHRISTOS ANESTI!” (Christ is Risen!).

Then, in a scene much like a New Year’s Eve, the jubilant people filling the church and its courtyard began hugging and kissing, fireworks echoed across the bay, and candles were lit for the processional to the beach.



And then Judas burned.

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Flames shot high in the sky and the crowd fell back as embers, like fireworks began falling.

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We stood spellbound watching until the flames died and it was time to feast.

You might think this Easter story ended there. Ah, but, not so fast. . .

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En route home, we spent a day and a half in Athens. Last Friday morning during a short walk near our hotel we happened upon a picturesque old church.

Sfakia2Amster2013 476Entering, we found ourselves with three priests and another gentleman, (a church deacon or senior warden type, perhaps.)

It quickly became apparent that he had been asked to take the priests’ photo. Even more quickly, it became apparent that he wasn’t quite sure how to use the digital camera he’d been handed. 

So, I did what any shutter bug would do: I offered to take the photos. 

By then, their camera battery needed to be changed and while we waited, the younger of the three clergy, who spoke perfect English, explained to us that the week following Easter was still considered Easter Week – the Easter service was performed each day from Easter Sunday until the following Saturday. 

He told us about the church and its history – its murals dating back to 1100.  Then ‘the photo shoot’ began;  I took group shots and individual shots.  I took a quick one with my camera as well:

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“Thank you,” the young priest said as we finished.  Then, as we were leaving, he called out,

“God Bless You! Christ has Risen!”

Yes, as I said, we may never experience an Easter like that one in Greece. . .


Map picture

This is our contribution to Budget Traveler’s Sandbox, Travel Photo Thursday.  Head over there for more photos and come back to TravelnWrite for a few more Greek tales. . .

37 comments:

  1. Don't you just love serendipitous times like this? I do. What a wonderful Easter you had in Greece, absolutely mesmeric. Thanks for sharing. Greece is just another place I'd love to get to one of these days.

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    1. Those are my favorite parts of travel! Greece is so wonderful that while we are both suffering from jet lag after our return home, we are ready to hop the plane and return! Thanks for visiting Johanna.

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  2. What a memorable and beautiful experience. I love their interesting traditions. I guess it's only fitting to burn Judas like that on Holy Sat. I can just imagine how good that roasted lamb smelled. Love your picture of the three priests. It almost reminds me of the Three Kings bearing gifts :)

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    1. Funny you should mention the Three Kings. . .I hadn't thought of that similarity until I was writing the post, but it did occur to me then. And I can't tell you how the scents wafted through the Saturday afternoon air. . .makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

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  3. What a great experience!
    I'm your latest follower!

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    1. Hi there! Welcome to TravelnWrite. . .always love having another Jackie along on our travels. Keep in touch! (Love your blog and will soon follow).

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  4. Wow, this is quite a celebration! I was trying to figure out what the effigy was about before I read the paragraph. Geez, I didn't think Judas. I guess because he doesn't figure in our celebration of Easter here, he never came to mind.

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    1. It was a bit startling to see him swinging. I've read that they burned 'him' at sea in Elounda, a town on the northeast side of Crete = that would also have been an interesting sight.

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  5. Great timing in Athens and overall probably one of the most interesting, fun, religious and loud Easters you'll ever enjoy. What a birthday trip this has been. It's going to be hard for future trips to live up to your Greek travels from what I've seen.

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    1. You nailed it: interesting, fun, religious and loud pretty much sums it up. And you are correct about those future trips, Greece raised the bar so high that I am not sure any others this year will quite hit that mark.

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  6. I'm so pleased you have had such a lovely stay in Greece!!!
    Hugs, Olympia

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    1. Olympia, Your country and the people in it are so warm and welcoming that our trip was simply unforgettable. It is already on our 'must return' list. Hugs, Jackie

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  7. Oh, what a beautiful experience. I know how special Greek easter is based on what I've seen from the Greek community in New York. I can just imagine how much more special it is in Greece. And such a blessing that you encountered those priests. Your photo of them is touching. I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Oh I am so glad you enjoyed this post. It was fun putting it together and reliving such an interesting time in Greece.

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  8. How fantastic for you Jackie! I want one of those cheese pies :) Your post makes me want to plan a trip to Greece and experience my own Easter there!

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    1. I should have also used the photo of the plate of Easter cookies the owner of the hotel provided us. . .way too cool! If you get a chance to be in Greece over their Easter, you will thoroughly love the experience.

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  9. Oh How I envy you - this is THE best time to be in Greece - and thank you for sharing. I could smell the 'arni' on the spit from here! Travel safe and filakia xxx

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    1. I thought of you Francesca while we traveled through Crete. I so totally understand your love of this special place.
      xo

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  10. How lucky to be involved in this important celebration, and to be offered a cheese pie from the first batch. Great Memories.

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    1. It did feel like family when the tray came out of the oven and we got the first pie! Yummy and special all at the same time.

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  11. Okay, Jackie. You KNOW how I envy you spending Easter week in Greece. And extra frosting on the cake was that church tour in Athens. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Yes, I do understand that -- you are one who shares my love of Greece. Thanks for stopping by today.

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  12. You bought Easter-time in Greece to life, Jackie and Joel. Well done. Para poli oreo!

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    1. It was a great experience - we are ready to celebrate Easter next year in Greece as well. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jeff!

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  13. I get the feeling the Greek-Orthodox Easter is more religious than the western version. Or that could just be because I live in Norway, where Easter is practically synonymous with skiing.

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    1. It really is huge and huge in the sense of religious celebration and much gathering together of families (and related feasting) not like our commercialized eggs, chocolates, Easter brunches, etc. It was good to be reminded of the 'reason for the season' as they say about Christmas here.

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  14. What a fascinating look at Easter in Greece.

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    1. It was fun to see it all close up and to be at least on the fringes of it all.

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  15. Thank you for sharing with us how Easter is celebrated in Greece - fascinating!!!

    Thanks for linking up with us!

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    1. And thanks again for hosting Friday Daydreamin' so we can participate. Always a pleasure.

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  16. What a wonderful trip, you are so lucky to be able to sample the real life in Greece and not just the touristy part. Thank you for sharing the interesting story and for visiting us at pret-a-vivre.com.
    We have a weekly linky party, please feel free to join us and share the fun :)
    http://www.pret-a-vivre.com/2013/05/ready-to-waltz-its-party-time_16.html
    Have a wonderful weekend!
    BiTi

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    1. Thanks much for returning the visit. Glad you enjoyed our 'trip to Greece' this week.

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  17. What an incredible experience! So many interesting traditions for the orthodox Easter celebration. I had never before heard of the burning of Judas. It's certainly a far cry from how we celebrate Easter here. I have a friend who is Greek Orthodox and I plan to find out from her now which of these traditions are practiced in Canada.

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  18. Burning Judas was certainly a focus of the celebration. As I mentioned above, in Elounda to the northeast of the island they set him afloat and burned him. We did notice on our travels the day after Easter Sunday that Judas was still laying on a pile of brush awaiting his fate (suspect it might have been too windy the night before).

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  19. A very different Easter, then. Sounds very interesting. And that cheese pie looks similar to a Chilean empanada to me...

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