Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Easter in Greece ~ A Soul Food Fest


It is Easter Monday in Greece ~ we're wrapping up a weekend of fests and feasts. Today, technically a holiday, seems the day set aside for resting up from the weekend's activities which took place as part of Greece's most significant holiday of the year.

Greek Easter is magic. Being in this country for an Easter is a feast for your soul and your stomach!


Decorations have been on sale for weeks


Since we arrived more than a month ago the signs of Easter's arrival have been appearing in both homes and businesses.  Medical appointments, work projects, meetings and other  activities requiring a set date have been scheduled before or after "Easter Week" because that is when all focus and activities turn to the holiday.



Easter vendor booths line Kalamata's pedestrian street
Easter's date in the Greek Orthodox religion is determined by using the modified Julian calendar while Easter in the rest of the Christian world is set using the Gregorian calendar. That's why this Easter took place nearly a month after the 'other Easter'.

 The celebrations in Greece begin two months before Easter with Mardi Gras, Carnival Apokria, which ends on Shrovetide Sunday.

Decorated white candles to be used on Easter Eve services were on sale

That is followed by Kathara Deftera, or Clean Monday (Ash Monday) which is a festival day in itself. Then comes Lent and . . .

Then Comes Easter. . .

Early this last week our nearby villages were a bustle of activity as finishing touches were being added to businesses that were reopening having been in hibernation all winter. New paint, flower planters suddenly bursting with blooms -  all was made ready for Easter; a time that also seems to kick off the beginning of tourist season as well.

At midday on Good Friday a slow, mournful tolling of the village church bell in Agios Nikolaos seemed to start the weekend - it was such a sad, s-l-o-w chime that it seemed designed to match the footfalls to the cross on that long-ago day in Jerusalem. It was such a haunting sound that it gave you goose bumps . . .whether a believer or not!  Greek flags are flown at half staff that day, including on government buildings, to mark Christ's crucifixion.

The Bier awaits the Processional on Good Friday

That evening after dusk, a church service in Agios Nikolaos was followed by a processional - The Procession of the Epitaphos of Christ - through town in which the flower bedecked bier is carried. Similar services and professionals were taking place in cities and villages throughout Greece. We didn't make it to town for that activity, opting instead to visit the bier in church in the afternoon.


Saturday night, however, we joined the hundreds who turned out for the midnight (closer to 11:30 p.m.) service and lighting of the white candles from the single candle, the Holy Light, that was lit by the village Papas, Priest, to signify the Resurrection. (It is said if you make it home and your candle is still lit you will have good luck.)





'Christos Aneste! - Christ is Risen!' calls the Papas
'Alithos Anesti! - Truly He is Risen!' - comes the Response




And it was time to light the candles. . .and set off the fireworks.



Then came the feasting on Sunday. . .

The smell of roasting lambs filled the air in villages throughout the valley

Traditional red eggs on the table

So much food we had to use chairs - this doesn't show all the food that came to the table
We joined two sets of our neighbors at a restaurant in one of the small villages up in the Taygetos Mountains that frame our valley.  The place was packed with Greeks, ex pats and a few tourists.  Throughout The Mani  restaurants were cooking up feasts and serving meals over the course of the afternoon. We began our dining at 1 p.m. and ended three hours later. What a feast! The menu included roast pork, roast lamb, zucchini pie, spicy cheese, tzatziki, beets, roasted potatoes, salad, bread and traditional Greek Easter bread for dessert - so much that we didn't have room for it all on the table.

I couldn't help but note that while traditions are strong in Greece, technology -- as it is everywhere - is now a part of life.

Cell phones and candles - tradition and technology

A family's feast - and a selfie or two to remember it all!

Yes, Easter Monday, is a much needed day of rest for everyone.  It's a day filled with wonderful memories and a chance to start anticipating next year's festivities.

If you were among those celebrating this weekend, a big Kala Pasha! to you. And to all of you, thanks for again being with us.  We appreciate your time and wish you happy travels~

Linking up this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
 Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

33 comments:

  1. We went to the Greek islands last summer and made a few Facebook friends who were all wishing us a Happy Easter. This explains it. Wish we were there. I love the Greek traditions and especially the food!! ~Terri

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    1. Oh Terri, Glad you've been to Greece and understand the magic of its food and cultural traditions that I write about. Thanks much for taking the time to comment.

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  2. So interesting to learn that Greece celebrates Easter using the Julian calendar versus the Gregorian calendar. Living in a new country constantly upends your assumptions of how things are done and celebrated. In the US few holidays any more seem to have much significance and I love the fact that, in so many parts of the world, holidays are still an occasion to stop and celebrate life's seasons and events. It may be highly impractical and inefficient but setting aside certain days and carrying on with traditions is a lot more fun! Great pics, Jackie!

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    1. Thanks Anita. You know it was refreshing to hear people say, ". . .it is Easter Week. . ." and whether that meant an increased participation in devotional activities or simply going home to spend time with family, there was a richness about it that it hard to describe to someone whose only experienced Easter in America. Thanks much for commenting and glad you liked the pictures.

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  3. I read your post and found myself nodding in agreement all aolng the way. I want you to know that it's fun to read your posts because you are seeing our traditions with your fresh eyes. Sometimes we forget how we are and we need to take a step back. It must seem strange to others that we celebrate a whole two weeks. In fact this week we are only "functioning" for 2 days because on Friday we celebrate the local church and so our stores are closed. Of course we always look for excuses to celebrate something. hahaha!

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    1. Oh Mary so glad you enjoy my posts. Hope that you'll 'keep an eye on me' though and if I ever see anything from an incorrect point of view, hope you'll set me straight. There is so much to learn about Greece and its wonderful traditions.

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  4. How I wish we had been with you. Such a wonderful time to be in Greece. Perhaps next year we can take the early holiday and revisit the traditions of all our friends. Sadly, this year we wait until late September before we can enjoy their company. Your description and photos had me almost there.

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    1. Oh Val, while this was magical, I couldn't help but think of our Easter together in Loutro. Here, we didn't burn Judas or set him afloat or anything and I kept wondering why. Yes, we will definitely try a rendezvous again. . .maybe this fall. Fingers crossed!

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  5. I thought Easter bunnies and baskets were an American thing, but I guess not since I see them in your photos. They were very hard to find in Asia. I like the peek into how the Greek Orthodox church celebrates Easter. I can almost imagine the mournful tolling of the bell.

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    1. I was surprised to see all the bunnies. I should have taken more photos of the display as they have many, many ceramic pieces devoted to bunnies and eggs than I've seen here in the US.

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  6. I love learning about holidays and traditions in other countries. Even better, I like to participate in them so maybe I should put Greek Easter on my list. Looks like many fun and moving experiences.

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    1. Oh Cathy, you and Mr. TWS, must experience Greek Easter - you two would absolutely love it. Put it on your list!

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  7. I would like to experience Easter in Greece - from the mournful Friday (interesting to hear the flag is at half-mast) to the Saturday night candle celebration to the Sunday feasting. I love the red eggs. How do they get them red?

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    1. Donna, if you get a chance do visit Greece - particularly a small village or island at Easter (make reservations early though as that is when people travel home) and immerse yourself in the holiday. It really is soul food.

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  8. Greek friends are currently visiting the area (Los Angeles). They flew the Tuesday after Eastern and they were exhausted since they were celebrating like for 5 days plus their grown up children were visiting. They bought olive oil from their own trees. That made me think of you.

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    1. Oh Ruth, that made me laugh because we just returned to the US and for the first time I brought olive oil from our own trees with us! Glad you get to taste some home-grown stuff!

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  9. I have experienced Christmas in Athens... memorable. I can easily relate to what you have described here. Great essay with pics and words.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Indrani, and I can imagine you had a magical time in Athens at Christmas!

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  10. It is wonderful that you were able to celebrate and get to know the customs of what is so important to your Greek neighbours and friends. What an experience.

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    1. A fantastical experience, Jan. Hopefully one of these days you and I will rendezvous in Greece for the visit in the lemon tree patio and you can experience the magic of their celebrations.

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  11. Easter in Greece looks like an incredible experience. I live in Greektown Toronto and here too Easter is celebrated a month or so later. Lots of lamb roasting and parades too!

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    1. I've heard Toronto is the next best place to be for Greek Easter if you can't be in Greece! Hope you enjoyed it all!!!

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  12. Oh yes, Easter is my favourite holiday in Greece...the lamb (although it's a bit off putting seeing the whole creature on the spit, you can even see its eye lashes!), the sense of community spirit.
    Love Easter! Thanks for introducing me to Easter in Kalamata (I went to Poros)

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  13. Hello, I enjoyed your post on the Greek Easter. Sounds like a wonderful celebration! The dinner and food is a great feast! Thanks for sharing the experience! Happy Monday, enjoy your new week ahead!

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  14. There's nothing better than celebrating a holiday as the locals do .... wherever you find yourself! Easter in Greece sounds like a great combination of solemnity and celebration.

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  15. You certainly make it seem like Easter is a wonderful time to visit Greece. I'm just wondering if you would find the same attention given to Easter in the north of the country, e.g. Thessaloniki and Halkidiki.Thanks for a great posting!

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  16. Such fascinating food and cultural traditions in Greece. Thanks for the heads up about when to visit. We would love to get there, and Easter seems a fantastic time to plan a trip.

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  17. Enjoyed attending this Greek Easter celebration with you. Probably the only way I will ever see it. Thanks!

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  18. Very interesting. I love the idea of fireworks at the midnight service. The eggs look as though they might have been dyed using the beets.

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  19. I just adore this post. My wife is Greek and we celebrate Greek Easter every year. This inspires me to actually go to Greece and really experience it. Thanks!

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  20. It's quite a way to travel back and forth to Greece to your second home. With the differences in time you could celebrate Easter twice ;) ##TPThursday

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  21. How fascinating. I love being taken to other cultures remotely, especially for celebrations in different countries, and your story did this brilliantly.

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  22. Oh, the food! How great to experience customs like the locals do. Hope your candle stayed lit till you got home!

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