Kalo Pascha! | How the Greeks celebrate Greek Easter

Easter is already over for us this year and the Greek Easter is yet to come. But that is not the only difference. Nowadays, Easter for us is mainly a day off and dinners with the family, but for Greeks it is the most important celebration of the year. How Greek Easter is celebrated and why it is (usually) later than ours, I tell you today.

The difference is actually in the religion. In the Netherlands we celebrate Catholic Easter while in Greece Orthodox Easter is celebrated. Two different religions and therefore celebrated slightly differently. Both holidays are always on the first Sunday after a full moon, after the beginning of Spring. However, both religions use a different calendar counting. For Catholic Easter the Gregorian calendar is used and for Greek Easter (Orthodox Easter) the Julian calendar is used.

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Greek traditions actually begin 40 days before Easter. Greeks fast for a period of 40 days prior to Easter Day. This fasting is also called Sarakosti. During this period one does not eat milk products, eggs, meat or fish (I understand that crustaceans and squid are allowed). Nowadays, not everyone strictly follows this tradition anymore, especially not in the cities, but in many (small) villages it still happens. In the Great Week, the week before Easter, most people did fast strictly.

The big week before Greek Easter

A week before Easter, the big week starts. It starts on Sunday with Palm Sunday and after that, you have Big Monday, Big Tuesday etc. On Saturday before Easter is Silent Saturday. Each day has a special meaning and church masses are held every evening. Big Friday (Good Friday in our case) is the day of mourning, but on Silent Saturday, when Christ resurrects, there is a big celebration. There is a church service during which the church bells ring out and there are fireworks.

In this week all preparations are made. Houses are cleaned, painted and streets, houses, and churches are decorated. The famous dish Tsoureki (Easter bread) is also made. Easter Day itself is mainly about eating and drinking with the whole family. Being together is really important and once again there is a great deal of entertainment. Important during the feast are the red-painted eggs, Magiritsa (a soup of vegetables and intestines) and of course the lamb on the spit.

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