Greek Orthodox Easter is probably the biggest celebration of the year for most Greeks, with a lot of special traditions and family gatherings. So, how do Greeks celebrate Easter?
Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, in 2020 we will all celebrate Easter on our balconies and gather “online”!
For 20 years in a row, Omilo was celebrating Easter together with the students, during the Greek Easter Course – Language and Culture.
Unfortunately, for the first time ever, this year the Easter course can not take place. Next year again, and in the meantime, let’s read about Greek culture online.
The preparations for the Greek Easter actually start from “Kathara Devtera” (Clean Monday) onward. All Greeks celebrate the national holiday “Kathara Devtera”, which is the last day of carnival and the first day of the so called “fasting period”.
From that day onward till Easter people might greet you with “kali sarrakosti” (We wish you a nice 40 days!), since there are 40 days till the “holy week” (the week before Easter Sunday). From Clean Monday till Easter Sunday children could count the 7 weeks with a traditional “Kuria Sarrakosti calendar”! Kathara Devtera is the first day of the so-called “fasting period” and the last day of Carnival.
Most people do not bother so much about “fasting” after Kathara Devtera, but they start fasting again for just one week before Easter, during the so called “holy week”! Nevertheless, for those that can do without eggs, milk, meat, etc… for 40 days, in every shop you will find “nistissima”, the foods you can eat during the “fasting period”.
Greek Easter is a very special and holy time indeed! Even for non-religious Greeks or students, the atmosphere is nice and it is a part of the Greek culture and traditions. During the evenings of the holy week, you can hear the church services every day. On Good Friday the candlelit funeral procession takes place in every church around 20.00 h.
On Easter Saturday, 90% of the Greeks hurry to church around 23.30 for the Resurrection and witness the priest bringing in the Holy Flame, flown in from Jerusalem. Greeks will light their candle at midnight and quickly try to walk home or to the tavern without
a) the candle going out
b) wax dripping on clothes, and
c) someone else’s candle setting clothes (or hair) on fire!
During the whole week till Saturday evening you can greet each other with the usual “Xronia Polla”, but also with “Kalo Pasxa” (Happy Easter) or otherwise “Kali Anastasi”. Just be careful when you want to translate the latter into English. (a nice Greek man wanted to translate it for some students in English and said: “Have a nice erection!” (instead of “resurrection”!).
From Saturday midnight you greet people with “Christos Anesti” (= Christ resurrected) and you are supposed to answer with “Alithos Anesti” (= Yes, he truly resurrected)
Greek Easter Sunday means eating Greek lamb, goat, kokoretsi, wine, tsoureki bread and cracking red eggs, while visiting family, friends, dancing etc. but also enjoying the beautiful nature and wildflowers everywhere.
In case you are a vegetarian, do not worry! Greece is probably the easiest place to always find plenty of vegetable dishes.
i ethniki giorti –η εθνική γιορτή : the national holiday
i megali ebdomada – η Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα : the holy week
I megali paraskevi – η Μεγάλη Παρασκευή : Good Friday
to megalo sabbato – το Μεγάλο Σάββατο : Easter Saturday
kreas – κρέας : meat
psari – ψάρι : fisch
lachanika – λαχανικά : vegetables
nistevo – νηστεύω : The verb “to fast”
ta nistissima – τα νηστίσιμα (φαγητά) : Food you are allowed to eat in case you are fasting
o pappas – ο παππάς : the priest
to arni – το αρνί : lamb
to katsiki – το κατσίκι : goat
to kokoretsi – το κοκορέτσι : a grilled dish made basically from the intestines of lamb/goat
ο xortofagos – ο χορτοφάγος: vegetarian
How you can greet each other from “Kathara Devtera” till Greek Easter
kali sarrakosti – Kαλή Σαρακοστή : (we wish you a nice 40 days)
Xronia polla – χρόνια πολλά : means “Many years”. You can use this also for birthdays, name days, Christmas, etc…
Kalo Pasxa – Καλό Πάσχα : Happy Easter
Kali Anastasi – Καλή Ανάσταση : “Have a nice resurrection”
Christos anesti – Χριστός Ανέστη : “Christ resurrected” (you can only say this from Easter Saturday midnight till some weeks after that)
Alithos anesti – Αληθώς Ανέστη: “Yes, Christ truly resurrected” (you can only use this as an answer to “Christos Anesti”)