Pascha – The Greek Orthodox Easter

Easter is the most sacred of Greek Orthodox holidays. It takes place in spring and it symbolizes the cycle of life, as the Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ. If you follow the religious rituals they lead to inner reflection, discipline, compassion and gratitude.

The delicious Greek "tsoureki"!

The delicious Greek “tsoureki”!

If you have been to Greece during this time you might remember the sight of a pious candle-lit procession through the winding streets of some country village on Holy Friday or the sound of inspiring church bells ringing throughout the streets signifying the resurrection after midnight on Holy Saturday. If you have never experienced Easter, or “Pascha” in Greece then I highly recommend it. The fields of the Greek countryside are smothered in blood red poppies, lilac and jasmine are in fragrant bloom, the light is awakening from winter dreariness and the Aegean is the perfect temperature for the first swim.

"Christos Anesti!"

“Christos Anesti!”

Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full moon of the spring equinox and is what we call a “movable holiday” because it does not fall on the same date every year. The word “Pascha”, Easter in Greek, stems from the Jewish “Pasah” which means “Passover”. The preparations for the celebration of the Resurrection start on Holy Thursday.  On that day housewives traditionally prepare tsourekia (braided sweet buns resembling brioche) and color eggs with special red dyes.  The Tsourekia are braided to symbolize the infinite cycle of life. Ever since antiquity, the egg symbolizes the renewal of life and the red color symbolizes the blood of Christ.

Greek Easter Bread (tsourekia) with red-coloured eggs

Greek Easter Bread (tsoureki) with red-coloured eggs

The Easter traditions of the Greek-Orthodox religion are many and all are rich with meaning. They are carried through from generation to generation and transcend borders and oceans and inspire us all to forgive, to have compassion for our fellow man, to re-kindle the flame of hope in our hearts and to stand together, united in peace. Starting with Lent and 40 days of fasting and prayer and ending with the resurrection of Christ, man celebrates the ultimate victory of life over death.

If you are fortunate enough to be in Greece during Easter holiday and want to learn more about the traditional foods and customs of Greek Pascha then join one of the Athens Food Tours. The tours are specially modified during major holidays to include foods and customs of each tradition.

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