Easter in Greece

View of the island of Patmos from the top of the monastery

I’ve got quite a few things to write about on here, however seeing as we are currently in the Easter season, I thought I’d blog about those another time and instead today concentrate on the time I spent Easter in Greece, in 2011. This was quite an experience, very far removed from everything I’ve done at Easter in the past. It involved eating a lot of Easter bread (a sweet Greek speciality) and participating in traditions that I’d never come across before. I was raised as a Catholic and am used to observing Easter as a religious festival, but I took the opportunity to experience Easter in the Eastern Orthodox tradition when I was invited by my friend to spend Easter with him and his family on the island of Patmos.

Feet washing in Hora

One thing I noticed that was different was the way Good Friday was celebrated. In the Catholic Church, we go to the liturgy at 3pm, however in Greece this isn’t a thing. On Maundy Thursday we decorated the Epitaph (representing the tomb of Christ), led by my mother-in-law and the local women. On Friday, we went to the local parishes to observe how each epitaph was decorated and then lit candles. It was quite a social thing, as we regularly bumped into people we knew. The national news that evening was dominated by scenes from around Greece as people paraded around the streets carrying the epitaph from each church.

The parish Epitaph
Saturday was a fairly normal day until sunset when my friend’s family called for me to come to the doorway to see the helicopter carrying the holy flame arrive on the island. The flame is lit in Jerusalem and carried around the neighbouring countries, making stops to distribute the flame. One of those stops is Patmos. It was quite an impressive site, seeing the helicopter fly into the island.

That evening we went to Church. The service usually goes in for several hours finishing at Midnight, however we went down to the church about half 11. We each brought a special candle called a labatha. These are traditionally given to Greeks by their godparents, but my mother- in- law gave me mine so I wouldn’t feel left out. The church was packed so we stayed outside. At just before Midnight, people came out of the church bearing candles lit with the holy flame and distributed the candle. We then all went down to the town square and waited until the clock struck Midnight, at which point which greeted each other with ‘Christos Anesti’ and hugged and kissed each other. It was very similar to New Year’s Eve in the U.K. Because the weather was quite bad that year, we made our way back home, through the streets of Skala. Shop owners called out ‘Christos Anesti’ to us, as we passed by and there was fireworks let off over the harbour.

Easter Sunday felt very much like Christmas Day. We didn’t go to Church, but we did eat a big meal of lamb together as a family.

Everywhere round the island was very quiet and there wasn’t a lot of people about. In the evening, we went to a party in the town square, with music, dancing and free food. It was a lovely holiday atmosphere.

Party in Skala

So that was my Easter in Greece. The weather was pretty rubbish and we ate a lot of souvalaki. It was definitely an experience and one I’ve glad I had. I learnt that Easter is a major holiday in Greece.

I really want some more banana bread now 🙂

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