Friday, May 3, 2013

Greek Orthodox Easter

Today is Good Friday for Orthodox Christians all over the world. Spiritually, it is the darkest day of the entire year, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and His death. Here in Greece, the heavy, bass tones of church bells ring slowly throughout the day, pausing seconds in between, in a solemn mood of mourning.

At night, during the Service of Lamentation, the Epitaphio (the symbolic bier of Christ), richly decorated with spring flowers and bearing His image, is carried around the village to the cemetery and back, in a mystical, candlelight procession, where members of the congregation walk together, arm-in-arm, chanting the Engomia (Lamentations), filling the night air with somber song.

Yesterday was Holy Thursday. Traditionally, it is the day when eggs, an ancient symbol of life and renewal, are dyed a rich, deep red, representing the blood of Christ and triumph over death. In addition, braided, brioche type breads and soft cookies, symbolizing the light of Christ's resurrection, are baked, but the evening is the start of mourning.

Tomorrow, with the arrival of Holy Saturday, preparations begin for the midnight Service of the Resurrection, when the Holy Light is flown in by special forces, from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, to major cities in Greece, where it is ceremoniously received and distributed, by awaiting priests, to their respective churches throughout the country.

During the day, children are often visited by their godmothers, who bring them new outfits to be worn on Easter day, a variety of sweets and chocolates, colourful eggs, and their own uniquely decorated candles (lambathes), which they will use only once, to bring home the Holy Light.

Later in the evening, everyone is gathered at the main church to observe the service. A few minutes before midnight, the lights are switched off, apart from the Eternal Flame at the alter. At the stroke of midnight, the priest excitedly announces, 'Christos Anesti' (Christ is Risen), to which everyone answers, 'Alithos Anesti' (Truly, He is risen). He then passes the flame to the person next to him, and so on, and almost instantly, the entire church is  aglow with the Light of the Resurrection.

The Holy Light quickly reaches the the many faithful outside, where the fireworks are fully under way, further lighting up the black sky with joy and rebirth!

After greeting and wishing everyone a happy Easter, the Holy Light is carefully shielded and transported home. With the smoke from the candle, a cross is formed on the upper part of the front door frame, and thus the house is blessed throughout the year with the light of the Resurrection. Inside, it graces the Easter table, where the forty day fast is broken and the bountiful feasts begin with egg fights!  Tsougrimsa, or egg tapping, is a game, in which one tries to crack the other's egg by tapping it, without cracking his own. Incidentally, the eggs are, hard-boiled. 

Easter Sunday is usually celebrated outside, weather allowing, when barbecues are fired up and the eating, singing and the carefree state of mind continues to Easter Monday. It is customary to serve lamb as the main course, but many people (present company included), choose to graze on grilled chicken or other lighter fare. Whatever the menu, one thing is for sure: it is a merry day spent with family and friends, rejoicing in the resurrection  of Jesus Christ and the rebirth of mankind.

On that note and in the spirit of this coming Easter Sunday, I leave you with a little rhyme I cooked up to mark the occasion of all the braiding, baking, and bountiful beauty of this most  beloved of  Greek Orthodox celebrations. 

Tsoureki: Tradition in Transition

Mahlepi, mastiha, orange or lemon?
Sprinkles, sesame or slivered almonds?
Always, but rectangle or round?
By the way, how many eggs can be found?
Rainbow hues or rich, deep red?
What? Nestled in chocolate, you said?
Stop! I'm in over my head!
Thought it was just
 A simple, sweet bread
Enjoyed at Easter
By Greeks, well fed!

Happy Easter to all my friends
 around the globe!

Thanks for visiting,


All images: Google


  1. Happy Easter to you poppy!! Loved all the pictures and what a nice traditions ! My very best friend is orthodox and she celebrates it too..

  2. You have described Greek Easter beautifully, lovingly and faithfully. It is truly a marvellous tradition regardless of whether you are a believer or not. Easter in Greece conjures up a unique, warming atmosphere full of excitement, ample preparation, community spirit and collective sharing of both mourning and celebration. A visitor or a non-believer is welcomed in the participation and made to feel one with all. I will never forget the emotional moment felt by everyone each Saturday midnight at the point of the symbolic resurrection when every one declares that 'Christ is risen' with the unanimous response of 'he is truly risen.'
    The pictures you post illustrate perfectly every step of the occasion. Your eloquent description conveys accurately the details involved, and you infuse your account with the devotion and dedication your bear for your faith.
    Bravo my friend. A brilliant post as always.
    Wishing you a happy Easter.

  3. Happy Easter to you, Poppy! Thanks for explaining about Orthodox Easter and for the interesting!

  4. Happy Easter to you Poppy! Thank you for sharing the tradition and pictures. Beautiful. Enjoy your weekend!



  6. Had never heard of egg tapping before but was introduced to it many years ago by my Greek friend, Maria. Wishing you a very Happy Easter. Tammy

  7. I am not Orthodox so this was absolutely fascinating ! What a beautiful post and so informative as well. Happy Easter to you! :)

  8. My mom had a dear friend who was Greek Orthrodox-- such a nice lady. She's gone now so I appreciate the reminder.

  9. I found you while visiting Cozy Little House-your blog is so inspirational, informative, creative and just perfect for me!
    Happy Saturday Hugs!

  10. Happy Easter my sweet friend. That was well explained and illustrated, I feel like I was leafing through the pages of an encyclopaedia! And those special treats looked so scrumptiolicios!!
    Thank you for sharing.
    And yeah congee is a rice porridge, usually added with fish, chicken, tofu or minced meat (meatballs). It is perfect for cooler weather as it warms you up and generally just a light meal with a feel-good after effect.

    Enjoy your Easter Sunday. Glory be to God in the highest! Christ is Risen.


  11. Oh, Poppy! I don't knw that I have ever seen something so glorious! That light! And the eggs and the food! loved that you told us about all of these traditions. I would love to go to Greece to celebrate Easter. Outside of Heaven itself, I don't think there is a more beautiful celebration than this. I am in awe. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, andmay I wish you and your family a very Blessed Easter.



    P.S. My husband was rading along, and he loved the idea of the egg fight. :-)

  12. P.S. Please excuse my typos. I'm having an issue with my server and am typing rapidly to make sure it doesn't go out on me again.

  13. Happy Easter!!!!!!!!!!! Amazing post!

  14. I found this all to be very interesting!!! Egg tapping eh? Hmmm, me thinks me has an idea for a game with the kiddos!!!!
    Hugs to you,

  15. those eggs are beautiful! I found you through Mockingbird Cottage, thank you for sharing your Greek Orthodox traditions! :)

  16. thank you for the sharing Greek Orthodox tradition beautful..and yes the flowers are my garden. Rock gardens with drought style flowers and my star jasmine is the treat of each spring still going strong and the smell o my

  17. Thank you for sharing the beautiful traditions of the Greek Orthodox Easter season. As a painter of Easter eggs myself, I was inspired by the decorated eggs you showed us. The breads looked amazing, too. You did a great job in describing and illustrating the beauty of Greek Orthodox Easter traditions. I am so glad I stopped by your post today. The weather is rainy, cloudy and chilly here today; your post was like a burst of sunshine! :D

    Have a wonderful Easter Sunday and Monday!

    Susie @ Persimmon Moon Cottage

  18. Poppy, thank you for sharing your Orthodox Easter traditions with us. I have some friends who are Greek Orthodox, but had only the vaguest ideas of their celebration and what it entailed. Have a wonderfully happy Easter, my friend.

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us this week.


  19. This made very interesting reading Poppy ... and I now know more about Orthodox Easter as I really didn't know much about it. I love the deep rich colours they have used to paint the eggs and the gold trimmings.
    That bread looks so very much like a type of bread we get here too so I wonder if it is a Mediterranean recipe.

    keep well

    Amanda :-)

  20. Poppy, this was such an interesting and beautiful post. Spectacular photos, too! Happy Easter! God Bless! Bess

  21. Poppy, How did I miss this? I'm so sorry!

    Wow! this looks like an amazing celebration. I love all the colors of the eggs and the fireworks display looks incredible. I believe it's so important to celebrate these religious traditions. It brings people together and that's always good for families and friends:)


  22. Beautiful photos of a beautiful tradition, Poppy. Thanks for the education...Christine

  23. I have always wanted to visit Greece. Now I know what time of year to travel! Absolutely gorgeous pictures!

  24. Thanks for sharing your Easter traditions with us. Your descriptions are beautiful and such a faith filled community. I would love to see it some day in person. My son will be going to Greece the first week in June for a wedding. I am very jealous!

  25. I've learned a lot here - beautiful ceremonies - quite moving. ! I appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,

  26. This is beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing your Easter traditions at the HomeAcre Hop! Look forward to having you back tomorrow:

  27. Poppy, Your post is so interesting! My family plays the egg cracking game but I have never seen such beautifully dyed eggs or knew the meaning of the deep red color. I have learned so much about this beautiful holiday. Linda

  28. This was very interesting to read and see. Oh, how I would love to be there to see this and partake some spring. So beautiful, so inspirational. I must sign up to receive your posts.

  29. Wonderful pictures and explanation of celebrations for Easter in the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece.

    Have a Blessed Easter. He is Risen Indeed.

  30. Beautiful traditions! Happy Easter and Spring!

  31. I remember being amazed at this post last year and am enjoying it just as much this year! :)

  32. This was so fascinating, dear Poppy. I enjoyed learning more about the traditions and your photos were a joy to look at.

    I am thankful for a risen and living Savior! Thanks for sharing with Roses of Inspiration. Hugs to you!

  33. I loved reading this post and learning so much. Thanks for sharing your traditions.

  34. Thank you, Poppy. Beautiful traditions. I had seen rainbow eggs baked into the braided dough, but the red eggs are stunning. I cannot wait 'til next year to make my own.

  35. Oh, how lovely! And so meaningful. I enjoyed reading this Poppy. xo


Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I really appreciate hearing from all of you! Have a great day!