Kaló Pásxa - HAPPY EASTER!
The Greek Islands offer a springtime rich in beauty, bounty, and tradition. In Paros, aromas of lavender and rosemary intermingle and carpets of wildflowers decorate verdant hills. A feeling of rejuvenation overtakes the country as everyone prepares for Easter, by far the biggest holiday in Greece, and celebrated in a beautifully unique way.
Every city, village, and church takes part in Easter ceremonies rich in both pageantry and piety.
Easter week, or Holy Week, is marked by different events each day leading up to Easter Saturday and Sunday. Some of the most remarkable celebrations are the procession of the flower-decorated epitaphios (bier of Christ) on Good Friday and the Resurrection Mass on Saturday night. Easter Sunday is the day for celebration and the breaking of the Lenten fast with lamb roasts and jubilation.
Easter in Hydra
The island of Hydra is especially known for its Easter celebrations. During Holy Week, the island swells with people who come to absorb the unique nature of a holiday celebrated in the village's narrow alleyways and across the sweep of its two tiny ports, without motor vehicles of any sort.
All of Hydra's processions wind through the village
and along the seashore, but perhaps the most famous aspect of Easter in
Hydra is the Good Friday procession of the epitaphios,
when the flower-festooned bier of Christ is held aloft by the town's
young men and processes through the fishing village of Kamini, down the
coast, and into the sea. The arcing port of Kamini fills with people
holding flickering candles. Both the flames and the epitaphios
are reflected in the port's night-time waters. In fact, Greek
television crews usually broadcast this one-of-a-kind rite throughout
Easter Week Festivities
- Saturday of Lazarus: Holy Week begins one week before Easter Sunday with children going door-to-door singing the hymn of 'Lazaros' and collecting money and eggs.
- Palm Sunday: churches hand out crosses made from palm fronds for people to place on their icon-stands at home and keep for the coming year.
- Holy Tuesday: housewives make sweet rolls (koulourakia).
- Holy Wednesday: in the evening, the blessing of Holy Oil takes place in church.
- Holy Thursday:
the day for dyeing eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are dyed red and either baked
into twisted sweet-bread loaves or distributed on Easter Sunday. The egg game:
it is the tradition to rap one's egg against those of friends and
family. The owner of the last uncracked egg is considered lucky.
In the evening, after the reading of the Twelve Gospels, local girls decorate the epitaphios with garlands of flowers.
- Good Friday: treated as a day of mourning in recognition of the death of Christ. Sweet things are not eaten and the Vesper service in the evening is followed by the wonderful procession of the epitaphios (representing Christ's funeral). The procession often includes a band or choir, cantors, the clergy, women bearing myrrh, the altar boys carrying liturgical fans, and the people of the region, singing hymns. All along the route, people holding lighted candles scatter flowers and perfumes on the epitaphios.
- Holy Saturday: the Resurrection (Anastasi) mass takes place. This midnight service is without a doubt the most important religious event of the year. At midnight, all the lights in the church are extinguished and the priest uses his candle to light a parishioner's candle. This flame (a symbol of the resurrection) passes from candle to candle, and light fills the church. The moment of the resurrection is marked by kisses and greetings of 'Christos Anesti, Alithos Anesti', ('Christ has Risen, Indeed he has Risen'). Before re-entering one's house in the early hours of Easter Sunday, it is customary to make a cross with the smoke of the lighted candle on top of the door. The custom is then to light the oil candle before one's icon-stand and try to keep this light burning throughout the year.
- Easter Sunday: the final, joyous celebration sees the gathering of families throughout the day, and the roasting of lamb, rotisserie-style (Arni Pashalino tis Souvlas - Easter Lamb on the Spit) along with general feasting and good times.