Easter in Greece is by far the most important holiday in Greece and Crete. It starts from the Saturday of Lazarus, which precedes the palm Sunday. This day is also the beginning of a 2-week break at a Greek school.
The time of Holy Week ( Megali Evdomada ) is a period in which, according to tradition, the Greeks do not eat meat, oil and dairy products. Each day of this week is devoted to the preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.
As in the case of the Catholic tradition, in Orthodoxy also Holy Week ( Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα ) is a period of gathering of the faithful every evening in the churches. In particular, this applies to the last days from Holy Thursday to the night of the Resurrection on Holy Saturday. Maundy Thursday ( Μεγάλη Πέμπτη ) is the day when eggs in the Greek tradition (symbolizing life) are painted in red, which refers to the blood of Christ, and the housewives bake a koulourakia cookie ( Κουλουράκια) . In the evening, the girls decorate the shroud of Christ. They use many plants for flowers, but in Crete the most common are lemon tree flowers.
Good Friday ( Μεγάλη Παρασκευή ) in Greece is the day of mourning, for sin it is considered to do all the hard work. On this day, closed stores and companies. The icon of Christ is taken off the cross and wrapped in the day before, the shroud symbolizing the tomb of the Lord ( epitaphios ). Late at night, most of the villages and cities of Crete are undergoing processions carrying this symbolic grave. On the entire length of the route, people pour flowers on epitaphios . At the head of the procession are the musicians or choir going before the inhabitants singing songs. Crete has a special dimension in Epitaphs organized in Heraklion, where processions from four different churches meet at the central intersection of Linos Square. The sad rhythmic sound of the orchestra drums, people filling the streets tightly, women and men dressed in traditional clothing create an amazing composition bathed in the sweet scent of rose water and flowers sprinkled on epitaphos .
In Crete, usually after the procession, Epitafia is consumed with a special dinner, on which dishes of various kinds of seafood are served (with the exception of fish). There are served various dishes containing squid, octopus, roe paste (taramosalata), grape leaves stuffed with rice (dolmadakia) and various types of salads. If you spend this time in one of the larger cities of Crete, you have to take into account the absolute obligation to reserve places in restaurants and taverns, which are very crowded this evening.
Holy Saturday ( Μεγάλο Σάββατο ) is the last day of the 40-day fast, which in the Orthodox church is called Tessaracoste (coming to the words of 40 days on an empty stomach). Of course, as in our case, fasting is more and more often symbolic and fewer people observe the old strict rules of its maintenance.
The proper beginning of holidays for the Greeks is the night from Saturday to Sunday, when they gather in churches at the Great Resurrection Mass. During this mass, the most elevated moment occurs when the priest passes on to the faithful the fire from the resurrection candle, which is brought from Jerusalem each year. This moment is accompanied by the words Χριστός Ανέστη! Christos Anesti! , meaning Christ is Risen , for which the faithful answer Αληθώς Ανέστη! Alithos Αnesti !, meaning Zaresh is Risen! The faithful with lit candles return home after mass and eat a modest meal of tsoureki's Christmas bread and red-colored eggs. This evening, there is also a special Easter soup made of lamb offal in a sauce of lemons and eggs. This dish is called mageiritsa and it is the first mthe greasy dish eaten by the Greeks after the fast.
Easter Sunday is the day when people visit in their homes, they eat together grilled lamb, kokoretsi (lamb's liver wrapped in the intestine and then grilled) and kalitsounia (Cretan cheese-cinnamon cookies).
One of the more interesting practices practiced on Crete is smoking the effigies of Judas or Barabash. In some areas of Greece, this tradition takes a rather peculiar character, because the inhabitants bring from their homes weapons from which they shoot at these figures. This custom can be seen in the following video.
Another equally interesting tradition is also known in other countries tsoukrisma (τσουγκρισμα). Prepared red dyed eggs are distributed to all persons staying at home. Then everyone tapped each other with these eggs until there is only one person whose egg will have an intact shell. This person according to tradition is to enjoy happiness in this year. This innocent game also has a symbolic and spiritual dimension. Red is a reference to the blood of the crucified Christ, while the cracking eggshell refers to his resurrection and the beginning of a new life.
For those who are going to Crete for the first time, we have prepared a set of basic information useful during the stay on the island. The following topics are important from our point of view and we have described them on the basis of our own experience. Of course, this article does not cover all topics and it is very likely that this toolbox will grow over time.