For me, these next two weeks are really wonderful to actually get to experience in Greece. This first week, called Big Week, is really somber and quiet throughout the villages, but beginning Saturday after midnight the celebrations and parties begin and last for another whole week!
During Holy Week, people are expected to be spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically preparing for Easter. Almost all cafes are empty and social events are reserved for the next week. This is the same behavior as if one is preparing for a funeral of a deceased loved one. Most people at least fast during Holy Week, abstaining from meats and the more strict abstaining from all dairy and oils.
Some wonderful preparations begin on Big Thursday, also known as Κόκκινο Πέμπτη (Red Thursday). This is the day when you dye your hard boiled eggs a bright red, and most families make their own homemade Easter breads known as, Τσοθρέκι (pronounced Tsoureki).
Red symbolizes the blood of Christ shed on the cross, and it is very common to see bright red eggs everywhere. Some people even save the first dyed egg for a sort of protection for the following year. Eggs can also be dyed on Big Saturday but not on Good Friday. This day is considered the most intense day of mourning and there should be no preparation for Easter, only preparation of your heart and spirit. You take with you some of your dyed eggs in your pockets to the Easter service Saturday night and after Christ has Risen and the church lets out, you hit your egg with a friend to see who’s egg will crack. Church begins around 10:30pm and lasts until after midnight, it is even common for the older woman of the church to stay all night long, either Friday night praying or Saturday to Sunday morning singing celebration hymns.
Some other preparations or traditions are buy a new outfit to wear to the Easter service, representing the NEW you that has risen with Christ. Most families also prepare their lambs to be roasted on a spit and many other meats along with freshly made cheeses and sauces! This is the greatest time for feasting all year!!! I definitely mean FEAST too, last year I was shocked how plentiful peoples tables were and how much they ate. We went to a couple of different Easter barbecues and it was if they were prepared for a King, they also ate and drank all afternoon! Let’s just say that Greeks KNOW how to celebrate THE RISEN KING!!!!!
I will continue to share more about Easter celebration and even my own Τσοθρέκι recipe in the following days. We are planning on leaving for north Greece late, late tonight and will be enjoying this time of preparation!