This year Easter Sunday in Greece is on May 4th and for Orthodox Christians, this is a huge celebration. It begins on Good Friday when flags on public buildings are at half mast, and the whole country is in mourning. At dusk the Epitaffio, is taken from churches and this bier is carried through the streets, followed by a procession of church-goers. Even in Athens, traffic stops for these processions which are held all over the city. If you happen to be in the tourist area of Plaka, then you could see the bier, decorated with flowers, being taken to the Byzantine church on Kidathenaeion Street. If you happen to be in a taverna you will see people standing up in respect, and you will be expected to do the same. The women of the church will have spent the day decorating the bier as traditionally they do no housework on Good Friday.
On Easter Saturday people start going to church around 11 pm and at midnight the church bells chime to show that Christ has risen. Be careful if you are standing outside a church at this time, as children often throw firecrackers. You will hear people exchanging the greeting “Christ has risen,” to which the response is “Risen indeed.” Then people hurry home with the candles they have lit from the holy flame in the church and they will make the sign of the cross on the lintels of their front doors. This, it is believed will protect the home and its inhabitants from bad luck until the following Easter.
People also smash their dyed red eggs against each others’ and say “Christos anesti” (Christ is risen). It is said that the first red eggs were made by Mary the mother of Jesus with his blood, and they signify his resurrection.
Either immediately after the marking of the lintels or on Easter Monday, people will celebrate by eating “magaritsa” soup, made from lamb’s entrails, and then will come large portions of spit-roasted lamb and lots of salad and vegetables. If you are there, don’t eat too many of the hard-boiled eggs!
On Easter Monday families traditionally spit roast a lamb and also make kokoretsi with the entrails. This may not sound particularly appetizing, but if you don’t think about it, and like liver, then you will be able to eat it, in a hearty chunk of fresh bread. Be prepared, if you are lucky enough to be invited to an Easter meal, to eat a lot.
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