Growing up as a child in the Netherlands, with my Dutch mum and Greek father, I was always happy that we got to celebrate Easter twice; the Dutch Catholic Easter and the Greek Orthodox Easter
At the time I did not understand why the Greeks celebrated a different Easter than all the Dutch but I was happy with double the chocolates!
When other children asked me at school, what is the difference? I always said well, at Greek Easter we grill a whole lamb on a spit, and I would get some strange looks back but to me it was normal! In Rotterdam, my family was part of a club, the Association of working Greeks, and every year at Easter they hired a sports canteen. There was an abundance of food and outside the lambs were grilled on the spit, in the traditional way. I was lucky because my father was one of the people in charge of the cooking so I was able to sneak pieces of meat before everyone else. After eating there was dancing until midnight and plate smashing!
What is different about Greek Orthodox Easter?
1. The Date: Orthodox religion follows Grigorian calendar and Catholic the Julian calendar so Easter does not always fall on the same day.
2. The Celebration: Every day is important from Monday to Easter Sunday, not just the weekend.
3. The Food: There is a 40 day fast before Easter and only natural foods are eaten. No meat, no fish, no milk and only shellfish and squid are allowed to be eaten.
4. The Candles: Children have decorated candles, lampathes, from their Godparents and everyone takes a candle to the midnight church service on Holy Saturday to be lit by the Holy light.
5. The Eggs: Orthodox Christians paint boiled eggs red before Easter. Red is the color of life and victory and the egg symbolizes eternal life after death for Christians. It is also a symbol of fertility and links with the beginning of spring. Traditionally, the boiled eggs are already dyed red on Holy Thursday. It is believed that they can be stored out of the refrigerator for 40 days without spoiling.
6. The bread: Tsouréki is Easter bread in Greece and is made both at home and by bakers.
The family recipe of the Greek Easter bread is passed down from mother to daughter. The shape may be elongated, but the bread is usually round. The dough is braided and in the middle is a red egg. The herbs in the Tsouréki recipe provide the specific scent of the bread.
This year because of lockdown the usuall big celebrations are not allowed in Greece. So my daughter and I will have a quiet, family Easter at home. The lamb will be in the oven rather than on the spit but still as tasty! And yes... we will have plenty of Tzatziki and glass of Ouzo - Opa!
Kalo Pasxa & Xronia Polla