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How do Greeks celebrate Easter?

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?
Read here the most important things you should know to celebrate Greek Easter in Greece!

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”.
At the beginning of the “holy week”, the Omilo-team will welcome the students for the Easter course in Nafplion.
Would you like to experience a real Greek Easter while learning Greek? Click here to read all the information about   our Easter course in Nafplion .

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 Saturday evening, 90% of the Greeks hurry to church around 23.30 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) in fire!

On Saturday night we will also eat the famous “mayeritsa” soup. (Just try it, but we prefer to give you the recipe after Easter!)

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 wild flowers everywhere.

In case you are a vegetarian, do not worry! Greece is probably the easiest place to always find plenty of vegetable dishes. However, be prepared, at Easter probably every Greek will try to convince you to taste some lamb! On one of our past Easter courses, another nice Greek man tried to persuade a vegetarian Omilo student to taste the meat. He simply said :” “There is no problem. Also our lambs are vegetarian!”

Omilo students enjoy the atmosphere of the Easter days, as well as the meals. Have a look at the video, taken during Easter Sunday lunch.

Vocabulary

siga-siga – σιγά-σιγά : slowly slowly
i ethniki giorti –η εθνική γιορτή : the national holiday
apokries – απόκριες : carnaval
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”)