Easter is my favourite time of the year. The weather is usually good, there are bank holidays galore, my birthday is around the same time, and of course, there are Creme Eggs on sale.
The Greek Orthodox Easter dates tend to differ from Western Easters and are based on the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar. Greek Easter is always after the Jewish holiday of Passover and must be on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.
Of all the great feast days, Easter for the Greeks is the greatest. Traditional foods made during this time include Koulourakia – butter twist cookies, and my personal favourite Tsoureki – traditional sweet bread. Hard-boiled eggs (a symbol of resurrection) are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ and a special game of Greek Egg Fighting then ensues (which symbolizes Christ breaking from the tomb). This involves trying to smash the other person’s egg with your own egg.
On the Saturday evening, Greeks head to church for the Easter service. At midnight, the church bells toll as the priests yell out “Christos Anesti!” (Christ is Risen!) and chaos ensues as everyone battles to light their white candle to take home with them. Those successful enough to reach their homes with the candle still alight, will then light other candles and let them burn through the night – a MAJOR fire hazard I know.
On the Sunday Greeks will do what they do best: EAT.
The main dish at the table will be lamb along with plenty of wine and ouzo and more lamb.
As we live in England, we celebrate both Easters, which means that we spend most of March, April and May eating even more lamb than usual.