Orthodox and especially Greek Easter (Pascha in Greek) is a tradition filled with wonderful spring season foods and traditions. It's the most important and religious celebration for the Greek Orthodox Church, marking the resurrection of Christ and the chance of rebirth for mankind. The schools on Crete close for two weeks around the Easter holiday period and families begin preparing the house and the animals for the celebration!
Spring is also the season of new beginnings, fresh buds bloom, animals awaken, the earth seems to come to life again and temperatures slowly rise towards twenties in the East of Crete where the first tourist have arrived that want to have an experience about the Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on Crete.
One of the oldest Easter traditions of Greek Orthodox Christians are the brightly coloured red dyed eggs. The egg itself is an emblem of the Resurrection, where actually the shel symbolises the empty rock tomb from which Jesus Christ arose after his crucifixion, while the red colour symbolises the redeeming blood of Christ that was shed to absolve the sins of man and it also means victory and life.
In Easter Week first is the Epitaphios Procession celebrated on Good Friday and on Saturday at midnight the priest is invoking ‘Christos Anesti’ (‘Christ is Risen’), reaching a candle from the altar. From the candle, the people that are gathered together, light their own candles and light the candles of all others. On Crete there is a pile of wood in front of the main church in the village, which is lit and the symbolic Judas Iscariot is burned after the midnight service. An impressive display of fireworks will light up the night sky and people say the phrase ‘Christós Anésti’ (Christ has Risen) to each other. The response is ‘Alithós Anésti (He has truly Risen).
Several tavernas are open after the midnight service on Crete. The 40-day fast has ended after midnight and meat is back on the menu. Easter Sunday tradition is the roasting of lamb outside on a spit, family and friends usually get together for a big party. The provision of local wine is abundant in combination with lots of food, music and dancing.
Easter celebrations are exciting all over the East of Crete where you can have the one of a kind opportunity to delve into an overwhelming spiritual atmosphere and participate into sacred rituals, ancient old traditions and joyful celebrations combined with great food.
Artwork above done by Steph Laberis.