Showing posts with label Greek holy days. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greek holy days. Show all posts

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blessing the Water ~ in Greece

Theophany ~ the ‘showing forth of God’ or the ‘manifestation of God’
We were lucky to have our recent time in Greece encompass holidays. While Christmas and New Year’s Day were both were celebrated, neither came close though to the festivities in our village of Agios Nikolaos for January 6th’s Feast of Theophany, or Epiphany.

Agios Nickolas fishing port and main road
In the Christian world, Epiphany, 12 days after Christmas, pays tribute to the baptism of Christ when for the the first time the Holy Trinity appeared before mankind. Here the Orthodox Church celebrates the day, with Megas Agiamor, one of three types of Blessing of the Water that is done throughout the year by the church.

The season’s unusual cold spell that brought temperatures to all-time low’s and blanketed parts of the country with snow, had threatened to drive the religious celebration indoors. “If the weather is good enough it will likely take place at 10 in the morning,” we were told, ‘if it is bad it will take place in the church.”

The procession from the church to the waterfront in Ag. Nikolaos
The previous day’s storm winds died and clouds disappeared during the night. We woke to a cold, but blue sky day. The processional from the church to the water’s edge, took place around 10:30.

The processional - Jan. 6, 2015
The Priests were keepers of the Gospel and the Cross that would be blessed and tossed into the water a total of three times before the ceremony ended. The first two tosses, all part of the  service, seemed like practice runs to those of us less well-versed in the tradition.


The crowd gathered around the priests and the young robed assistants took their place at the water’s edge.

DSCF2963A blessing and a toss. . .while across the harbor, young men – members of the congregation readied themselves for the bone-chilling water . . .

The Cross is tossed. . .the race was on. . .


One of the three would be the first to reach the Cross.  That young man received a cash prize from the church. Then as tradition dictates, he added more to his ‘catch’ by taking it house-to-house and person-to-person blessing places and people who in turn made small donations – that he would get to keep.

This year's cross-bearer conducted blessings of homes and people
While he went to work delivering blessings, the gathered villagers celebrated, greeting each other and sipping a bit of Greek brandy, Mextaca, which had been served in plastic cups to the assembled. Some of us, like my friend Sue and I, returned to the café to finish our coffee and tea we’d been sipping while waiting for the processional to appear – we’d dashed off to watch the ceremony like everyone else. Our cups were where we’d left them . . .no one worried whether we’d return to pay or not. . .that’s the way it is in this village.

PicMonkey Collage
Thanks for stopping by – we always appreciate the time you spend with us.  Hope you’ll take a moment to comment, we love hearing from you! In our next post, we'll tell you how to get to this wonderful little village and our Stone House on the Hill.

This week’s link ups are with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox  
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route  
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening


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