Where: Greece, all across the mainland and islands
When: Many Orthodox churches base their Easter date on the Julian calendar, which often differs from the Gregorian calendar that is used by many western countries. Therefore the Orthodox Easter period often occurs later than the Easter period that falls around the time of the March equinox.
What Happens: As one of the most important religious events of the year, commemorations of age-old traditions and ceremonies taking centre stage all over the country. Even for those who aren’t religious, it’s easy to get caught up in the fervour of such a special occasion.
Remember to Bring: Candles and a healthy appetite.
Easter is a holiday of love, a time of rebirth for the human spirit and the celebration of life. In Greece, it’s one of the most important religious events of the year, with commemorations of age-old traditions and ceremonies taking centre stage all over the country. All across Greece, faithful Christians follow the Holy Week ritual devoutly, giving body and soul into the culmination of the Passion of Christ and finally rejoicing in His Resurrection. Even for those who aren’t religious, it’s easy to get caught up in the fervour of such a special occasion.
Easter is a magical time in Greece. The countryside springs to life as tree branches sprout new leaves, wildflowers blossom and villagers prepare for summer by sprucing up gardens and freshening up homes, churches and village lanes. These preparations coincide with the arrangements made for the Easter celebration, which begins weeks earlier with the start of Lent.
On Maundy Thursday, the Service of the Holy Passion is held; the preparations for the celebration of the Resurrection also start on that day. Traditionally housewives prepare the Easter brioche – tsoureki and dye eggs with special red dyes, symbolising the rebirth of life and nature.
On Good Friday, the sacred day of the culmination of the Passion of Christ with the Deposition from the cross and Christ’s burial, people decorate the Epitaph, as the tradition wants the Crown of Thorns of Jesus Christ to be covered with flowers. As this is a day of bereavement, devout Christians are supposed to refrain from eating. The Epitaph Mass takes place in the evening followed by the circumambulation; people join the procession on its way through the streets of villages and city listening to chanters who recite funeral psalms creating a mystical atmosphere of devout concentration.
The resurrection is celebrated during a candlelit service known as the Anastasis. This service, held at midnight on Holy Saturday, celebrates the resurrection of Christ. White candles are only lit after the priest proclaims, “Christos Anesti” (“Christ is Risen”) and the flame is flown over from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
It all culminates on Easter Sunday with a communal feast held al fresco.
For a true taste of Greece, don’t miss out on sampling tsikoudia, a fragrant grape-based pomace brandy. Traditional treats such as tsoureki, a sweet bread made of eggs, milk and butter, and kalitsounia or lihnarakia, small cheese or herb pastries, are all delicious. These treats can be found all over stores and pastry shops.
Easter in Greece wouldn’t be complete without the celebratory roasting of a series of spit-roasted lambs and other traditional meat preparations, during which people eat, drink, sing, dance wishing each other a long life.
main image: Beginning of the epitaphios procession at Great Saturday Matins