Greek Easter – A Peek at Being Greek

Koulourakia (butter cookie)  - Greek Easter tradition
Koulourakia (butter cookie) Great with tea!


My Big Fat Greek Easter

On Sunday I celebrated Greek Easter. Julia posted an Instagram pic entitled “My Big Fat Greek Easter.” Yeah, it’s kind of like that. This is the one holiday when all of my aunts, uncles, cousins and their children come together with my immediate family. My sister, Karla, and her husband, Bob, host and it’s always a feast of food, family and frivolity.

Greek Easter Traditions

While our current day festivities are memorable, my most significant memories of Greek Easter come from my youth. When I was a kid, our Easter celebration took place after midnight liturgy. At church, we held burning candles and processed outside into the dark of the night.  Back in our pews, we’d wait for the chilling moment when all candles were extinguished and the packed house stood in total darkness and silence. Before that, we could always count on at least one person fainting due to heat, claustrophobia or, according to my dad, staring too long at the flame of their candle. Whatever the case, that thud of someone dropping to the floor, the pitch black church and the cloud of smoke and incense that engulfed us was unforgettable.

What I loved most, however, was leaving church and heading to my YiaYia’s to celebrate. It felt wild to be up until 4:00 am playing with my sister and cousins.

But as traditions go, this one changed and we began celebrating Easter during the day. I still miss the midnight meal and mayhem, but many of our traditions have remained and some have even taken a modern day turn for the better. To begin, Greek Easter would be nothing without certain foods and never do we take a bite without a rousing rendition of the Christos Anesti (Christ is Risen) hymn. And just like when I was little, the kids giggle and make faces at each other while the adults sing passionately in Greek.  Who am I kidding? I still giggle.

Greek Food

As for the food – here is a pictorial of some family favorites.

Dolmathes (stuffed grapeleaves), Kalamata olive and feta, Pasticio (Greek lasagna), Leg of Lamb
Dolmathes (stuffed grapeleaves), Kalamata olives and feta, Pasticio (Greek lasagna with noodles, beef and bechamel sauce), luscious Leg of Lamb. Not shown, but always an all time favorite – Spanakopita or “pita” (spinach pie with filo).


Kourabiedes, Baklava, Mavrodaphne - Greek wine
Kourabiedes (powdered shortbread cookie) and Baklava (nut, honey, filo pastry), Mavrodaphne – Greek wine.


Greek Games – Egg Cracking Contest

One tradition that has held on for as many years as I’ve been alive is the cracking of the red eggs. Greeks dye all of their eggs red in honor of the blood of Christ and we play the game of Tsougrisma (egg tapping). Cracking the egg symbolizes the breaking open of Jesus’s tomb. The game was simple when I was young. You’d randomly find someone with an uncracked egg, hit eggs and the person with the uncracked egg went on to find someone else to hit until there was only one good egg left.  Bragging rights were the only prize.


Red eggs for Greek Easter Tsougrisma
The eggs.


Today, the stakes are higher. Egg cracking is now a contest that includes tournament brackets, a trophy and memorialization on the Easter plaque. If friends stop in, they too join the fun. This year, the new girlfriend of a young family friend went all the way to the final round. If that poor girl had won there might have been a mutiny from those of us who’ve waited a lifetime for the title (John and Suzie, we’ll have our day). Instead, Auntie Carolyn took home the prize and no one could be more deserving!  I know the coveted Ultimate Egg Trophy will hold a special place in her home until next year when we do it all over again.


Greek egg cracking and "The Ultimate Egg" Trophy
The cracking of the eggs and The Thomas Family “Ultimate Egg” Trophy.


I can’t wait for more Greek Easter traditions. Christos Anesti!

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Moving Forward – A 50th Anniversary and More

Mom and Dad 1966
Mom and Dad 1966


It’s been mighty quiet around these parts lately. It’s school vacation week in Massachusetts and my neighborhood seemed like a ghost town.

While low key, my week had some highlights. Some higher than others, but even the small moments were meaningful. It may sometimes feel like we are standing still, but we are always still moving forward.

A Week in the Life…

  • We celebrated the confirmations of two lovely young ladies whom we’ve known since they were toddlers. As I watched them stand amongst more than 70 of their peers, I couldn’t help but think about time gone by. With Julia by my side, I realized she was just a year away from being part of this mature group. I felt nostalgic.
  • Speaking of Julia, she started her first real job. I couldn’t believe it when I dropped her off and said, “Have fun at work.” Where did my little 4 pound preemie go? Her life is moving forward so quickly, I can’t keep up.  I felt emotional.
  • I unloaded years’ worth of old magazine issues in which I had published articles. I’d collected multiple copies of cover stories and other contributions that I was particularly fond of. My house was overrun with magazines and it finally came time to sort through everything and let go of the extras. This was oddly hard to do – it’s as if a piece of me was in each publication no matter if I had one copy or ten, but I got the job done. I felt satisfied and a little unsure.
  • By far, the most impactful thing we did was celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. My sister, Karla, and I planned a lot of fun activities for the evening. We reminisced over old music, photographs and stories that we’ve been told before, but since forgotten. But most significant, was my parents’ telling of what has made their marriage work. “Compromise,” they agreed. We didn’t ask them to elaborate; we just listened and appreciated the message. I felt proud.
Mom and Dad still going strong and moving forward
Happy 50th Anniversary Mom and Dad 2016


No, we didn’t travel anywhere warm and exotic this vacation, yet I still came away from it feeling uplifted. Several opportunities to look at the past left me sentimental, but happy and ready to be moving forward to a bright future. All in all – a good week.

I hope yours was a good one too.

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I Love my Dog: An Ode to Oscar the Grouch

Holding my dog Oscar
Oscar the Schnauzer – look at that face!


I love my dog! I really love him.  Is that weird?  I know my fellow dog lovers won’t think so. Dog love is hard to explain. It’s essentially the same kind of love you might have for a child because, let’s face it, our furry friends become our babies. But some will argue; they aren’t children, they’re dogs. I understand and I’m sure people who don’t share the same passion for pets probably think we, dog lovers, are nuts. But since Oscar came into my life, I can’t stop myself from coddling and spoiling him – for that I will not apologize.

We adopted Oscar when he was seven and now he’s ten.  I think the fact that he was older when we got him made me attend to him all the more. He’s my little old man and an easy dog too. Even Tony (my husband), who vehemently didn’t want a dog, reveres Sir Oscar. You know the story – man didn’t want dog, now dog is man’s best friend…

Tony says he wishes he were a dog; now seeing what a charmed life Oscar is living. Sleep, food, walk, love and attention – it’s all good.

We are a family obsessed. My girls’ devotion to him has not waned a bit since the day we got him, my sister is as in love with him as I am and, somehow, every conversation circles back to him.

The funny thing about Oscar is that while we adore him, pamper him and treat him like the regal king that he is, he seems generally irritated by all of us. He likes to do his own thing most of the time and when we frequently scurry around to hug him or pick him up, his expression of pure exacerbation cracks us up. We’re never offended, because his aloofness is part of his charm. He may be a wee standoffish, but he’s a sweet boy, so he lets us have time with him. If a dog could roll his eyes in utter annoyance, I know that’s exactly what Oscar would do.  Instead, he just gives us a minute and then frantically squirms until we are forced to let him out of our affectionate grasp.

The fact that Oscar is a little grouchy actually makes him even more endearing. It may be why I love my dog the most. In a way, it’s nice that he’s not jumping all over us, licking or demanding play time.  He’s just a mellow guy who we somehow got lucky enough to call our own.

So, if you ever see me baby-talking to my dog or fussing over his every need like he’s a toddler, don’t think me crazy, it’s just that I love my schnauzer -A lot!

kisses for my dog Oscar


I know I’m not alone. What do you love most about your pet?

TBT –  Check out my Merrimack Valley Magazine column about Oscar from September 2014 – Matters of Life & Beth.

Thank you Jen Killilea for the photos!

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The Long Hall: Tufts Floating Hospital for Children

Children's Hospital -Tufts Floating Hospital for Children
7th floor hallway at Tufts Floating Hospital for Children

The long hall in the photo represents the start of one long week. Last Sunday, my oldest daughter, Julia, spent the night in the hospital. Everything is perfectly fine! Turns out she was dehydrated, had a touch of the flu and, mostly, exhausted (note to self: all-night fundraisers in the high school gym sound like fun, but not a good idea for a teenage girl who desperately needs her sleep). As any parent would be – I was a wreck, but for the most part I knew our hospital experience was for precautionary purposes. Although both Julia and I wanted nothing more than to go home, I was impressed with the medical team’s determination to ensure absolutely everything checked out OK. My mindset at the children’s hospital was the same as with airport security – I’d rather deal with the inconvenience than ever feel that something may have slipped by unnoticed. I’m a big fan of “better safe than sorry.”

We were at the Tufts Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center overlooking Boston’s Chinatown. The buzz just outside the hospital doors was electric.

Inside, the patient care Julia received was exceptional. I was most impressed with the kind and considerate bedside manner of every single nurse, doctor, aide and student that we encountered. Never did someone snap or act brusquely. I could tell that Julia felt comfortable and unafraid – as a parent; that made me feel good.

As anyone knows who has spent time in a hospital, there is a lot of time waiting for things to happen. In that time, I couldn’t help but observe the youth and energy of this teaching hospital. There were so many young, attractive people in scrubs and lab coats that it felt like we were on the set of “Grey’s Anatomy” – without all the drama and absurdity. When I popped down to Au Bon Pain, at all hours of the day or night, I was surprised to see it was active and busy no matter what the time. And again, it seemed I was always surrounded by young, good looking people. While, of course, healthcare should have been top of mind, I admit I was slightly distracted and mesmerized by the entire scene.

When we left Tufts Floating Hospital, I was glad we had taken advantage of the top-notch Boston medical system. How fortunate we are that our local hospitals are among the best in the world. The 45 minute ride from home was worth the peace of mind knowing that such a reputable medical institute had given us the all clear. And while Julia spent most of her time there sleeping, I was not surprised a few days later when she said, “After seeing everything that goes on in a hospital like that – I think I want to be a doctor.”

Thank you Tufts Floating 7. You did a great job – in more ways than one.

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