Easter, or Pascha, as it is called here in Greece, has finally returned with all its splendor!
I am writing on Easter Monday, the final day of nearly a week-long celebration and religious observance in our adopted country. The week is called Megali Evdomada (Holy Week, or literally, the Big Week).
|Epitaphios, Agios Nikolaos|
And what a week it has been! Why, it was . . .back to normal! And I hate to admit it, but we had almost forgotten what a normal Easter week is like here.
In case you think I have my week's mixed up, we celebrate Orthodox Easter in Greece so the date fell a week later than Easter celebrated by other religions this year.
|Our village, Agios Nikolaos, Peloponnnes|
After a two-year absence due to 2020's Covid lockdowns and last year's subsequent precautions, the magnitude of the celebrations was evident in every part of the country. Ferries, trains, planes and highways have been jam-packed since Thursday as urban dwellers headed to ancestral homes. Being a celebration even larger than Christmas, Easter is a 'together time' here and finally family and friends could be together.
|Shopping needs to be done early in Easter Week|
We've been expats in the Peloponnese long enough to know that any business transactions or work that needs to be done, should be completed by Wednesday of Easter week as that is the day businesses begin closing for the weekend. The observances of the holiday are taken very seriously here; a country in which 10 million are of the Orthodox religion.
By Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday the food preparations have begun and the religious ceremonies are underway.
|Epitaphios - Kardamyli on the highway|
Good Friday - a day filled with the somber ringing of church bells - is marked by church services and processionals through cities and towns in the evening. The flower-covered, canopied Epitaphios, similar to a funeral bier, is carried through the streets following a service in the church. It is a somber, moving processional. A Greek friend nailed it when she said, 'Even if you don't believe in anything, you will be touched.'
|Good Friday - a somber celebration|
The Easter service celebrating the Resurrection takes place Saturday evening, near midnight. Candles are lit and the call, 'Cristos Anesti' (Christ is Risen) rings out. It is a greeting that continues throughout the holiday weekend as that is how you greet friends and acquaintances. They reply, 'Alithos Anesti!' (Truly, He is Risen).
|Candles are lit - fireworks erupts over the harbor|
The Holy Flame from which these candles are symbolically lit comes from the Holy Fire, a miracle that occurs at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem every year on Holy Saturday. A portion of that Fire is quite literally transported by plane from there to Athens where it is further divided and sent on planes to destinations within the country to be used in the Saturday night ceremonies. I couldn't help but chuckle when I read news reports that the flame arrived two hours late this year - due to Covid protocols prior to takeoff. That pesky Covid continues to make itself known!
Breaking the Fast
|Our Easter feast is roasting|
Sunday is feast day throughout the land as it officially ends the 40-day Lenten fasting. It is on this day families and friends fill restaurants to overflowing or gather for traditional lamb roasting and feasting in private homes. We've celebrated the day at restaurants in the past BC (Before Covid) but this year were treated to experiencing the event at the home of friends. The gathering included Greeks, English, Americans and Swiss.
By mid-morning the lamb had gone onto the spit. For those wondering why Greeks always roast a lamb it is because it represents Christ, the Holy Lamb of God.
|Red-dyed eggs an Easter tradition in Greece|
We had Greek music and Greek dancing (lessons for many of us, myself included), we broke the traditional red-dyed eggs, which symbolize the blood of Christ and the cracking of shells, His Resurrection.
|An Easter feast to remember|
We ate home-cooked cheese pies, stuffed, roasted peppers, oven-roasted potatoes, tzatziki, beet salad, cheeses, breads and desserts too many to list.
The Weather Gods shown down on the celebration with temperatures in the high 70's, and blue skies overhead.
Reports from all sectors are that Greece is learning to live with Covid (it helps that our case numbers are dropping dramatically). If this is learning to live with it, I am all for it!
|A gathering of family and friends on Easter|
I often hashtag posts about life in Greece on Instagram and Facebook as #blessed. Some days bring that feeling to life more strongly than others. Easter this year, I believe, has made us all feel blessed and most thankful that Greece is righting itself after the Covid upset, and that we are able to gather with friends and family once again!
That is it for this week. We send wishes for safe travels to you and yours. And a big welcome to our new subscribers! Thanks for your time with us today. Hope to see you next week - bring a friend or two with you!
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