Easter in Greece
The air is filled with the scent of honeysuckle and lilac. Yes, Greek Easter (Pascha) carries within it a certain magical quality that is associated with the first signs of spring, the deep religious feeling characteristic of the famous Greek writer Papadiamantis , and of course the ever vibrant spirit of the Greek people.
History and Traditions of Greek Easter
Something peculiar always happens during Easter time. As soon as Holy week starts, everything falls into place. Scents become even stronger and sweeter, the verses in church are sung louder, and the spirituality of nature is reflected in the deep mystical feeling of our soul. Yes, Greek Easter is unlike any other. The fact is that Easter in Greece is by far the most important celebration Orthodox Christianity, since it is associated with the Resurrection of Christ. The Greek name pascha is derived from the Hebrew word Pesach, meaning the festival of Passover. The question of when Easter should be observed was first settled by the First Council of Vithynia in Nicaea in 325 AD, when it was decided that the celebration should take place on the Sunday after the first full moon on or after the day of the vernal equinox. In Greece, Pascha is called Lambre (meaning bright or lucent) because it is a day of joy and it signifies the passage from death to life. Many customs and folk traditions are revived annually at this time. The week preceding Greek Easter is called the Holy Week and each day of that week relates directly to a particular event that took place during the last days of Christ prior to his crucifixion. The procession of the Epitaphios takes place on Good Friday, while on Holy Saturday (which is called the Great Sabbath in Greek) the faithful gather in churches for the Paschal Vigil holding white Paschal candles as they wait for the proclamation of the resurrection of Christ. Just before midnight, all the lights go out. At midnight, the priest chants, "Come receive the light," and then exits the church's sanctuary with a lit Paschal candle to light the candles of the faithful. Then he reads passages from the Gospel of the Resurrection and as soon as he finishes he chants "Christ has risen..." Then the fireworks begin - a custom that has its origins in the era when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire - while the congregation kiss each other (what the Greeks call the kiss of Love) and say Christos anesti ("Christ is risen").
Easter in Athens
Athens provides many opportunities for you to have a good time and experience the unique atmosphere of Easter in Greece. You can stroll around and visit various exhibitions, buy gifts and Paschal candles, lose yourselves amidst the many shops specially decorated for these festive days or you can try some Lenten food (any food or sweets that do not contain meat, cheese, milk and eggs). All the formal religious events which take place in the churches of Athens provide a first-hand experience of the solemnity that is typical of the Greek Holy Week while, after the Paschal Vigil, almost every restaurant offers mageiritsa (a soup made of the lamb's internal organs: liver, heart, lungs and intestines with an egg-lemon sauce), red eggs and roast lamb.