The biggest celebration on the Greek Orthodox calendar — bigger than Christmas — is Easter.
In 2022, Greek Easter occurs between Friday, April 22, and
Monday, April 25.
An overview of the special traditions:
Easter in Greece is of utmost importance in the holiday calendar and therefore it is also celebrated most impressively. The reason for this peculiarity is easy to explain: around 97 percent of the Greek population are officially Greek Orthodox Christians. And the Easter season is in the period of the beginning of the uprising against the Ottomans in 1821 – a quasi-coincidence of religious and national rebirth.
Even the date of the Greek Easter is a special feature and differs from that of Easter in the Western Church. Here, too, Easter Sunday is scheduled for the first Sunday after the spring equinox, in short: the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring. However, the Greek-Orthodox Church does not use the commonly used Gregorian calendar system as a guide. based on the older Julian calendar, which has a difference of 13 days. For this reason, the date in 2021 was a full four weeks apart, this year it is only one week: Greek Easter is celebrated this year on April 24th. Only in 2025 will the dates for Easter in the Western and Eastern Churches coincide again.
What happens at Easter in Greece?
40 days before Easter the Sarakosti (the “Forty Days”) begins, which is intended to commemorate the duration of Jesus’ stay in the desert. During this period, strictly speaking, the diet consists exclusively of dry plant foods, whereas meat, alcohol and even oil are avoided, among other things. More and more Greeks are taking the long fasting period a little more relaxed, but many people still fast intensively during the Holy Week or the “Big Week” (Megali evdomada). It begins on Palm Sunday (April 17). Laurel leaves are distributed in the church, which the Greek women keep in their kitchens all year round.
Preparations for Easter start on Thursday morning (Holy Thursday): Many Greeks are cleaning up their apartments and houses, and the eggs are dyed for Easter – but only red to represent the blood of Jesus.
Good Friday (Holy Friday – Megali Paraskevi) is the holiest day of the Holy Week and is considered a day of mourning. The bells ring all morning, women and children go to church with flowers to decorate the epitaph, the coffin of Christ. In the evening, the epitaph is carried in a large procession through the respective location.
On Holy Saturday all of Greece pours into the churches in the evening with prepared Lambádas: These are candles that are decorated with all sorts of jewelry, with flowers, fabrics, colorful ribbons and often with very banal worldly figures (like Barbies or Supermen. At exactly midnight a priest appears at the church gate and brings the “holy light” from the altar to the people and proclaims the resurrection of Christ. The nights are suddenly as bright as day, and in many cases fireworks do the rest.
Easter feast in a good mood
After going to church, people return home and eat the traditional Greek Easter soup Magirítsawith family or friends. This traditional dish consists of vegetables and lamb offal.
As a starter, the red-colored eggs are passed around and knocked against each other in turn. Whoever breaks the eggshell loses. Whoever is left at the end of this “little competition” can look forward to special luck in the coming calendar year.
On Easter Sunday the Greeks celebrate extensively. In many regions, the Easter lamb, which was slaughtered or simply bought for this occasion, is a must. In some regions, however, goat meat in the oven is enough as an Easter feast. Visitors are welcome on this holiday – you shouldn’t miss this contagiously happy atmosphere and for that reason alone Greece is definitely worth a visit!
“Happy Easter”, a fairly easy couple of words in Greek – Kalo Pascha!
More about Greek Easter and some nice photos here.