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Easter & Traditions.

In the Greek Orthodox religion, Easter is the most sacred time. Preparations and traditions have passed down through many generations and they are still part of the modern life. Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, the days are known as the Holy Week and towards the end of it, the preparations reach their climax. Each region has its own traditions but there are several which are common.

Holy Thursday.

While the days before did not include many preparations, Holy Thursday, or else Great Thursday for others, is the one when things begin. Traditionally, on Thursday, the Easter bread is baked, known as tsoureki, and the eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ.

On the same day, in the evening, the Church services include the representation of the crucifixion and the period of mourning begins.

Holy Friday.

The holiest day of the week. It is the day of full mourning and no one works on said day. It is also the day when the Divine Liturgy is not read in any mass. Flags are hung half mast all over the country and the church bells ring all day but in a slow, mournful tone. In addition, churches are “decorated” with purple banners. Women and children are allowed to take flowers to the church and decorate the Epitaphio, the symbolic bier of Christ, which people can see on the evening mass and follow around in the local neighborhoods as it is carried on the shoulders of the faithful.

Devout people do not cook on Friday. If they do prepare lunch, then traditionally foods are simple and they are to be boiled and seasoned with vinegar.

Holy Saturday.

On the day of Holy Saturday, the Eternal Flame is brought to Greece by a military jet and it is distributed to the priests waiting who carry it to their local churches. The event is always televised.

On the morning of Holy Saturday, preparations begin for the next day, Easter Sunday. The traditional mayiritsa soup, which includes the organs and intestines of the lamb that will be roasted the next day, is also prepared and it will be easter after the midnight service of the Resurrection. During this Church service, people carry white candles and lanterns and they use these to bring the Eternal Flame home. When the clock strikes midnight, the Priest calls out “Christos Anesti”, meaning “Christ is risen”. When people exchange “Christos Anesti” as a way of wishing well, the respose is “Alithos Anesti”, meaning “true is the Lord”.

During dinner, other than the mayiritsa soup that was mentioned above, the tsoureki can be eaten along with the red eggs. Before those are cleaned and eaten, however, the traditional challenge called tsougrisma begins. It is all about holding your egg and trying to crack your opponent’s egg.

Easter Sunday.

The main focus of Easter Sunday is on the traditional foods. At dawn, or even earlier for the brave ones, the spots are set to work and the grills are fired up. The customary attraction of the day is the whole roasted lamb to represent the Lamb of God. Appetizers, such as the Greek tzatziki and the olives, are included along with other delicacies.

More wishes are exchanged among friends and family and, sometimes, the celebrations can last the whole day.

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