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.
As for the food – here is a pictorial of some family favorites.
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.
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.
I can’t wait for more Greek Easter traditions. Christos Anesti!