By Ada Leivada
Greek Easter, or Pascha, is not an easy concept to describe to people without Greek bonds. It is something you take for granted but you find yourself missing if you are traveling or are away from Greece or your Greek family at that time of year.
This year, however, all Greeks will miss it — and hopefully will not take it for granted ever again. Easter is the greatest religious holiday for Orthodoxy and Hellenism. But you do not have to be religious to celebrate or love Greek Easter and all its traditions. You simply have to be Greek at heart.
This is because it is a holiday that brings families, friends, and people from the same community together to celebrate the concept of nature, rebirth, and life after death.
Time-travel back to Easter 2019
The Greek Holy Week is here and it would normally be busy and full of the traditions families experience together. Greek schools are closed on Holy Monday, but most parents are still at work, which means that children are at their grandparents’ houses where the Lenten fast continues.
When it gets darker, if you have a look from above on any typical Greek neighborhood, you will see people walking towards their nearby churches to attend the evening service of Holy Monday. On Holy Tuesday, the custom of baking Easter cookies takes place in southern Greece.
Usually, all the women of the family of every age get together at grandma’s house to bake and share them with the whole family. Northern Greek women get together on Holy Wednesday to make the sweet Easter bread “Tsoureki” which the family will eat after the great Lenten fast is over.
Early in the evening, they rush to church to be blessed with holy oil, something that is meant to protect them and bring health to the whole family.
The following day, on Holy Thursday, Greek families get together to dye their Easter eggs red. Easter eggs will fulfill their purpose with epic family battles of “tsougrisma” and will be intentionally smashed on the ground to “warm the land” as Greeks always wish for warm weather.
Good Friday, which is marked by the solemn procession of the “Epitafio,” is a day of sorrow when emotions run deep.
Whether the funeral processions for Christ’s death are accompanied by impressive musicians, like the ones on Corfu, whether they end up in water, like in Tinos or Hydra, or whether they take place after midnight, like in Ikaria, they are all the very essence of this week.
Christians of all ages get together to mourn the death of Jesus Christ and pray for life after death.
Then, on Holy Saturday, there is the image of hundreds of people rushing to churches late at night to celebrate the joyous news of the resurrection of Christ. After millions of fireworks turn the night sky bright, Greeks go back home to enjoy “Magiritsa” soup, the perfect way to break the fast.
The next day is Easter Sunday — and there is simply no celebration like it. Food, dancing, music, family, and warm weather are the pieces of the puzzle that make this day one of the most special days for Greeks everywhere.
“Zooming” Greek Easter 2020
But this year is so very different. This year there will be no crowds rushing to church, no busy family gatherings, no “glendi” with the whole neighborhood on the street. This does not mean, however, that we have to skip these traditions and spend these days apart from our loved ones. Instead of trying to just forget this Easter or skip it to make it less painful, let’s try to remember it as that year we celebrated “Easter OnLine.”
On Holy Tuesday and Wednesday we could video call our grandmas, moms, aunts, sisters while we bake all the Easter delicacies together! After all, everybody seems to know how to use Zoom these days to stay in touch.
If we can’t and don’t have yiayia’s secret recipes, we can surely find great recipes online. Akis Petretzikis is always a great source of inspiration. And if the recipes are in Greek, even better, since as the teachers of the worldwide Greek School, Greek Lessons OnLine tell us, following recipes is a great way to practice your modern Greek language skills.
As for the glorious celebrations of Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, instead of treating them as missed opportunities and days we would like to forget, we could see them as a chance to reconnect with relatives we would not normally see.
Technology could be our means to reach out to people we want to get in touch with and get to celebrate Greek Easter together. And why not have an unforgettable glendi online this year? It could be so much fun!
Yes, it is sad that we can’t celebrate Easter the way we were hoping to this year. But let us focus on what matters, which is to do our best to be able and celebrate without any family losses next year and for many more years to come.
Let us treat Pascha 2020 as an opportunity to connect with others. Let’s experience all the traditions together with our loved ones online to make sure nobody feels alone. And most importantly, let’s never again take things for granted.