Orthodox Easter Celebrations

Let's jump right in to Easter!

Although we call it Greek Easter, it is more commonly and correctly known around the world as Orthodox Easter.

Christians around the world celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the March 21st Spring Equinox, meaning it will occur on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25th each year. However Orthodox/Eastern Christianity follows the Julian Calendar and thus Orthodox Easter can be celebrated anywhere from 1 to 5 weeks later.

Many Orthodox believers have similar traditions such as dying eggs red as well as fasting animal products for 46 days. I will be focusing specifically on the Greek traditions and faith as I am Greek Orthodox and would love to share a little of our cultures and traditions with you. ❤️ I hope you enjoy learning a little more about our culture as well as about our traditional Easter foods and pastries. I will add a few recipes for you to try out at home especially while we are all confined to our homes and baking and cooking more than usual to keep busy. 👩🏾‍🍳👨🏼‍🍳 We have some beautiful decor tips and ideas for setting the perfect Easter table because, would it be a Gaia Blog if we didnt? 💁🏼‍♀️💫



Traditions

Greek Easter is celebrated all over mainland Greece as well as on the islands. It is said to be the most significant time in the Greek Orthodox Church. For the church, it is a celebration of both the death and the resurrection of Christ. The date of Easter in Greece is marked by the Julian calendar, another factor that decides when Greek easter takes place is that the Orthodox Church continues to adhere to the rule set forth by the First Ecumenical Council, held in Nicea in 325 AD, this requires that Pascha takes place after the Jewish Passover in order to maintain the Biblical sequence of Christ’s Passion. ✝️

The Holy Week, or Easter week is a public holiday in Greece. Families get together and people enjoy many wonderful food traditions that Greeks follow around Easter time.

Over the years I have had to explain to many friends what the obsession with boiling and dying eggs red is as well as why we make flaounes - cheese and raisin pies (they sound weird but are delicious, apparently!) Lol, they aren’t my fav but it's a tradition and so I spend hours with my mother and sister making these pies—that I don’t even eat. I never realised how selfless I really am. 🤣😶 They are in fact a Cypriot tradition but more on those later!

Orthodox Fasting (NISTIA)

Orthodox Christians fast for 46 days, this starts the same time as the 40 day lent. These days are filled with prayer, fasting, and abstinence (refers to the complete avoidance of particular food) in preparation for the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.

How does one fast in the Orthodox way? Orthodox fasting consists of abstinence from meat, dairy products and fish (all except shellfish). There is also the strict fast, which is practiced on certain days, where there is abstinence from olive oil. 🥬🥕🥗

In the Orthodox Church, fasting has retained its role as a form of spiritual self-discipline for the faithful. In Orthodox theology, the body and soul are inseparable, therefore whatever has to do with the body also has to do with the soul.

The fast of Lent, the 46 days leading up to and including Holy Week itself, lends itself to traditional Greek cuisine. Greek food is rich in vegetables, grains, legumes and olive oil, and this is particularly true of dishes eaten during periods of fasting. Easter fasting season brings its own traditional ingredients and recipes as well.

More important than what you eat, however, is the chance to experience the Greek “theology” of food. Here, food is seen both as a source of life and as a way of achieving communication with God and our fellow man. The act of sitting down and eating with your family and friends has always had deep social and spiritual implications in Greece, whether it be in fasting or in the midst of feasting.

Recipe Links:

Baking Tsoureki and Dying Red Eggs

On Thursday evening before Good Friday, Greeks around the world prepare for the Holy Weekend. Everybody makes sweet Easter bread, called Tsoureki (most buy it, because its time consuming and difficult to make, but definitely worth the try). The bread is braided using three braids representing the Holy Trinity. Many people also make it into the shape of a cross or round wreath, red dyed eggs can be added and baked into the bread that is eaten on Easter Sunday. 🥨

In the Orthodox Churches, eggs are boiled and dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ, the hard shell of the egg symbolizing the sealed Tomb of Christ, whereas the cracking of the egg symbolises his resurrection from the dead. Eggs are also a symbol of fertility and eternal life.🥚

Holy Thursday is the day that Greeks by tradition dye their eggs red. This tradition has started to change over the years however, different colours, patterns and more creative ideas are used nowadays to decorate Easter eggs along with the traditional red eggs. 

Recipe Links:

Koulourakia

Koulourakia are a traditional Greek biscuit, typically made around Easter to be eaten after Holy Saturday.

They are butter-based biscuits which are hand-shaped, with egg glaze on top. Koulourakia have a sweet delicate flavour with a hint of vanilla and orange. In fact, the word is the diminutive form of a ring-shaped loaf or lifebelt.

The biscuits can be shaped into braided circles, twisted wreaths, horseshoes or even Greek letters, although they are still often shaped into a snake shape. Koulourakia have been prepared since the time of the Minoans, where they often shaped the biscuits like small snakes because they worshiped the snake for its healing powers. 🐍

Koulourakia Recipe here.

Flaounes

Technically a Cypriot tradition but many greeks make them as it is common for people to come from Cypriot and Greek households ( if you don't know the history, it's interesting to read up on 😁 You can read more here, and here.)

Flaouna (Greek: φλαούνα) is a cheese and raisin filled pastry from the island of Cyprus, they are often garnished with sesame seeds and formed into triangles or squares. Flaounes are traditionally prepared for Easter by Orthodox Cypriots. Flaounes are served in Cyprus as a celebratory food for the breaking of the fast. They are prepared on Good Friday to be eaten on Easter Sunday. Baking flaounes is often a family tradition shared with multiple generations and recipes passed down from mother to daughter, etc. 👩‍👩‍👧‍👧

Traditional Cypriot Flaounes Recipe here.

Flaounes

Midnight Church Service and Breaking The Fast

Late on Saturday evening (or just before  midnight, Greek time is a real thing) most Greeks go to church, which is always filled way over capacity, some even stand outside! A beautiful festival of light follows. At midnight the church switches off all lights and the bells ring out to proclaim the resurrection, Greeks young and old buy or make their own Easter candles which they take to the church on this night and light at midnight. The priest lights a candle representing Jesus’ eternal flame and everyone in the church lights their candle from this one flame as it gets passed on from person to person. 

Each year thousands of Orthodox Christians attend the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem for the Greek Orthodox Easter ceremony of the Holy Fire, the centrepiece of the Greek Orthodox Easter.  The Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem presides over the spectacular ritual. The ceremony is held in the Holy Sepulchre Church every year to receive what is believed to be fire from heaven, representing new life. Jerusalem is at the heart of their faith - and nowhere is more sacred than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It dates back to the third century, according to the Greek Orthodox faith, a monk entered the darkened tomb of Jesus in the Sepulchre then emerged carrying a flame and proclaimed it a miracle.  The Greek patriarch carries what believers say is the holy fire of god through the church.  The flame is spread from the Patriarch to each worshipper until the sepulchre is full of burning candles, the flame passed from the Priest to the worshippers in all the Greek Churches around the world come directly from this church in Jerusalem.


After the service, people carefully carry their candles home and make a black cross on their houses or doors with the candle to bless and protect themselves. 🕯

Families then sit down to have the festive dinner and break their fast. They always start with cracking their red eggs, which symbolizes the risen Christ’s blood.  Each person selects an egg, carefully inspecting them and selecting the one that seems the strongest. Then the egg cracking begins, you crack your chosen egg on top of another’s chosen one, saying “Christos Anesti” (meaning “Christ has risen”). The other responds, “Alithos Anesti” (meaning “Indeed, he did!”). Each time there is a winner and loser—the loser is the one with the cracked egg. This continues until there is only one winner- the chosen one with the un-cracked egg! The one with the strongest egg is said to have good luck for the whole year. This is followed by eating the first meat in 46 days, this is either in avgolemono or magiritsa soup! Magiritsa soup contains the offal of the lamb just before it is roasted, along with some green vegetables boiled together. Avgolemono is an egg and lemon based chicken soup and is also cooked with rice. It is traditional to eat these soups because it symbolizes the end of the 46-day fast Greek Orthodox people have in order to mourn the death of Jesus. This feast of drinking and eating lasts till the early hours, sleeping only to get up and make the Easter Sunday lunch. 

Easter Sunday is another day to celebrate, everyone gathers again to roast the lamb on a spit and enjoy a delicious long Greek lunch of different meats, salads, potatoes, breads, dips and much, much more. Just like in my favourite scene of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “What you mean you don’t eat no meat? It’s okay, I make lamb.” If you dont eat lamb, dont bother coming over, lol! 😋🍖

Traditional Avgolemono Recipe here.

Easter Decorations and Table Scapes

In terms of Easter decor, Greek Easter gives us two amazing opportunities for gorgeous table scape designs, the midnight meal as well as Easter Sunday lunch. 💫🥀

I always like to set a dark elegant style table with black table cloth and black crockery as well as beautiful, deep reds and golds for the midnight meal where we break our fast. For easter Sunday, a beautiful white tablecloth with lots of soft pastel colours symbolising light and life.

For the midnight table scape, you can use your beautiful deep red and blue dyed eggs as part of your decor, as well as the tsoureki and all the traditional easter treats you have baked. Many cute easter decor tricks can be done with the things you have in your house; a material napkin can be tied around a dyed egg with a cute ribbon to make a whimsical bunny decoration on everyones plate. 🐰🐣

Let's talk DIY decor ideas, you can use egg shells to create beautiful little vases or name places for your guests, or make stunning wreaths for your door or entrance.

Here are a few ideas. See pictures for some inspiration.

Easter Egg Flower Box

Use plastic grass and decorated eggs to adorn an indoor or outdoor flower box. It's the perfect way to make use of the boxes. 💐

Bunny Dessert Stand

It honestly doesn't get cuter than this, use stunning bunny and easter inspired cake stands and crockery topped with macarons or deviled eggs, a rabbit-shaped platter takes your Easter party decor to the next level. 🐰

Ceramic Eggs

You don’t need to buy hundreds of real or chocolate eggs each year. Find ceramic eggs for pretty centrepieces that last for years to come. 🥚

Carrot Roots

Carrots aren't just food—place the veggies in a clear vase or bowl along with your favourite flowers for an extra pop of color. 🥕

Easter Cakes

Make or buy a plain cake or dessert and use your Easter eggs to decorate it, it can go with any theme be it monochramic or fun and whimsical. You can even use easter decor that isnt edible, just remember to remove the decor before you slice your beautiful cake. 🍰

Shades of Grey

For a more modern easter decor, place black and white eggs into a glass bowl and add matching feathers. ⚫️⚪️

Real Eggs 

Use your chocolate eggs as decor on your table, place in beautiful dishes and display as centrepieces, this creates a fun aspect to your party. Find fake grass/moss and scatter small eggs along so guests can help themselves after lunch is served. Fill bunny themed jars with easter treats and write little notes for guests to help themselves. 🍫

Egg Shells

Shells can be dyed or painted and placed on your table with small flowers in them to be used as little vases, another fun idea is using coloured egg shells as name places for your guests. Beautiful easter wreaths can be made by decorating plain wreaths with shells and feathers, dont forget to add some moss and flowers for a softer touch. 💕


In terms of colours anything goes, its up to you to create whatever look you want, monochromatic is chic and understated and still creates a beautiful visual experience. However, beautiful, soft pastels with greenery and white create a fun whimsy. Dark and elegant colours work well for this occasion too. Any colour you want can work well as long as it is executed with love. Oranges and more warm colours work as well—use carrots as centre pieces and bring in browns and golds through crockery and cutlery. Egg shells can be left in their natural colour and will work well for this colour palette.


In Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed learning a little more our about Greek cultures and traditions and that you have learnt some fun decor ideas for the next Easter celebrations. We hope everyone is staying home and looking after themselves so that we can all go back to celebrating together and spending time celebrating life with our loved ones. Gaïa can not wait to be back to creating memorable moments for you to celebrate with those you love most. ❤️

But for now, we will be giving you more fun ideas to make your time at home a little more special. Be sure to check our blog regularly for more fun ideas, including a blog coming soon on how to make beautiful flower and greenery arrangements from things you find in your garden in order to make your house more beautiful while we all stay in doors.

All our love and light💫

The Gaïa Girls🧿

xxx

Posted in Celebrations on Apr 14, 2020

Gallery

Sign up for the Latest News & Trends in Event Design

2019 Copyright © Gaia Event Design
A Site by MI Creative