Χριστός Ανέστη! Happy Easter to all my Greek and Greekcypriot friends! I promised a post about Greek Orthodox Easter and it’s Easter Sunday tomorrow for most Orthodoxs so this post is all about it!
It’s been a crazy, surreal week in Eleni’s world, so I completely forgot it’s been Holy Week back home this week (my original plan was to post about each day of the Holy Week on the actual day but I didn’t manage to do that, so I tried to fit as much as I could in this post, apologies if it’s too long!).
I had to go through some bizarre situations (some of you already know about) and take some big (and smaller) decisions the last couple of days. I read somewhere that ”the biggest decisions you take are the ones nobody knows about” and it’s so very true! But this post is not about me! I will write about it when I can share more 🙂
So what are the differences from other Christian religions when it comes to Easter? I have no idea. Most of you who know me, know that me and religion are not best friends, so I don’t know much, I only know how we celebrate Easter back home.
I haven’t spent Easter at home for years so forgive me if I forgot anything! PS for any questions you might have, just google it. If I were to explain everything in detail the post would have been even longer!
A lot of Byzantine Music will feature in this post (thanks Youtube!), which I personally enjoy sometimes. Those of you not familiar, you are in for a treat!
So… 10 weeks before Easter there are some bizarre days/weeks to those not familiar (they are all dedicated to religious events, I will only refer to some, because there are a lot).
For the first 3 weeks I will refer to the traditions rather the actual religious celebrations as I am not quite sure about them.
The first week is a normal one (fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, which are always days of fasting- you are not allowed to eat meat/anything dairy, chocolate etc on those 2 days all year- except for a couple of exceptions).
The second week, you are allowed to consume ANYTHING, even on Wednesdays and Fridays. On Thursday ( “Tsiknopempti”), of that week a LOT of meat and stuffed pastries are consumed and most people celebrate the evening with friends and family.
Also on this Sunday, the Greek/ Greekcypriot Carnival takes place in different cities! A lot of dressing up parties going on during the week and parades usually take place on Sunday!
Then the week after, you are not allowed any meat (but you can eat dairy products) and then the 40 days of strict fasting (no meat, dairies, chocolate, not even olive oil!) start from Green Monday which is a public holiday and most of peeps have a picnic in green fields and fly kites (don’t ask me why!)!
I have to admit that I was never good at fasting. I can’t last more than a day (sometimes even less) so I cheated on a lot of Green Mondays! I couldn’t possible fast for one day let alone 40!).
The following weeks, every Sunday symbolises a different religious event and Fridays are dedicated to Holy Mary (beautiful beautiful melodies on those Friday services called “Salutations to Mother Mary”).
Here is a sample sang by nuns (usually sang by the male chanters at church).
Then we come to the holy Week. The Saturday just before is dedicated to Lazarus resurrection and everyone who died, so we all remember our special ones on that day and light a candle in their memory.
Sunday marks Jesus arrival in Jerusalem where Jews welcomed him laying palm leaves on the street and chanting.
Holy Monday is dedicated to Jesus cursing a fig tree (which I assume has a special meaning?) and also to Joseph, son of Jacob (of the Old Testiment).
Holy Tuesday is dedicated to the 10 Virgins parable.
Holy Wednesday is dedicated to a sinned woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears and the hymn of St Kassiani is sang.
Holy Thursday is dedicated to Last Supper, Jesus prayer at Gethsemane, his betrayal by Judas, his arrest and trial. On that night a reenactement of the Crucifixion is performed in church (no humans involved!). It’s also tradition to dye eggs red, which we use on Easter Sunday.
In Cyprus, on Thursdays, most of families bake one of my favourite traditional Easter pastries, flaounes! My dad makes the best!
Holy Friday (my favourite) is dedicated to Jesus death, during which a wooden Epitaph symbolising Jesus death is carried around the neighbourhood followed by everyone (priests, chanters etc) and the most beautiful eulogies are sang. Some churches have choirs performed them and I used to do it for years when I was a kid. I always teared up and sometimes still do when I listen to them!
In the evening all saints icons are covered with black sheet as a sign of mourning.
On Saturday morning, the news that Jesus resurrected break out and this happens at church! (OK, I admit not all priests do it as enthusiastically as this adorable one on the video below!).
In the evening, around 11pm, we all gather at church to ”officially” celebrate Jesus resurrection.
Lights go off at 12am, and a hymn called Χριστός Ανέστη (Jesus resurrected) is chanted multiple times. We all light a candle and wish each other Χριστός Ανέστη! The service finishes at 3am usually, but most of us leave just after 12am. It’s a tradition to eat Magiritsa (a traditional soup made for Easter) on that night.
Also on Saturday evening, it’s a Cypriot tradition to light a fire which represents burning Judas, as he betrayed Jesus.
On Sunday noon, the Vespers of Love (google translated, not sure if that’s the right terminology) is on at church for about half an hour.
After that, families and friends are gathered for a LARGE meal, traditional games are played and we all clink our red eggs with each other, the one whose egg doesn’t break is the winner (there is no actual prize!).
This is just a very brief version, apologies! I hope it’s been interesting to those not familiar with Greek Easter celebrations and made the rest of you who are familiar, laugh a little bit with my partial knowledge and the things I forgot to include!
I will try and post more often, but not sure when again!
Happy Easter!!! Christos Anesti! Χριστός Ανέστη, χρόνια πολλά!
Love you all! xx