Orthodox Easter in Greece

Though facing a lot of challenges lately, Greece is still one of the richest countries when it comes to cultural value. With thousand years of culture, Greece will surely satisfy your curious about one of the most ancient culture: Ancient Greece. Nowadays Greece is one of the top destinations for tourists who want to know more about the world rather than just having fun. Orthodox Easter in Greece is one of the most famous festivals and should be attended given the chance.

>>Epiphany festival.

How it begins

Easter is by far the biggest event of the year, celebrated everywhere with candlelit street processions, midnight fireworks, and spit-roasted lamb. Some islands are renowned for their unique Easter festivities.

Easter week, or Holy Week, is marked by different events each day. It all begins on the Saturday of Lazarus (one week before Easter Sunday) with children going door-to-door singing the hymn of ‘Lazaros’ and collecting money and eggs. The festive spirit continues throughout the week, and villages, towns, and cities come to life as locals decorate their churches and epitaphs, hold daily services, fast and follow specific customs.

Easter Egg via Nicolas C.Rossis

Good Friday leads into Easter weekend with a day of mourning in recognition of the death of Christ, culminating in one of the most extraordinary nights of Easter week. Evening services are followed by candlelit processions through the streets, carrying the flower-decorated epitaphs (bier of Christ) and representing Christ’s funeral. Bands, cantors, clergy, women bearing myrrh, altar boys with liturgical fans, and townspeople singing hymns all join the solemn cortege. Along the route, people holding candles scatter flowers and perfume on the epitaphios. One of the most impressive of these processions climbs Lykavittos Hill in Athens.

Resurrection Mass (Anastasi), which takes place on Saturday night, is without a doubt the most important religious event of the year. At midnight, all lights are extinguished in the church and the priest uses his candle to light the Easter candle of a parishioner. The flame passes from candle to candle, light fills the church, and the moment of the resurrection is marked by kisses and greetings of ‘Christos Anesti; Alithos Anesti’ (Christ has Risen; Indeed he has Risen). Afterward, families go home and break their Lenten fast with a rich meal of traditional dishes and the fun ritual cracking of vibrant red-dyed eggs.

Easter Sunday is the day for celebration and feasting with lamb roasts and jubilation. It’s an excellent time to get invited to a Greek home. The leisurely midday meal on flower-draped tables often gives way to traditional dancing and fireworks. As an important place of Christian pilgrimage, the Monastery of St John the Theologian on Patmos has one of the largest celebrations.

Further information

Inside the Cathedral via LivingDusty Blog

If you’re planning a trip to Greece for Easter, remember: the date of Greek Orthodox Easter is tied to the Julian calendar, so it won’t necessarily match up with Catholic Easter, which is calculated using the Gregorian calendar.

You can find further information about Festivals and events around the world on our front page.