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Easter (=“Pascha” in Greek, “Pasah” in Jewish, which means “Passover” of the Red Sea, free, far away from the Egyptians ) is the biggest celebration of the Orthodox Christians and the one richest in folklore.
The Greek people use the word “Lambrí” (Brightness) for “Pascha” because the day of the resurrection of Christ is a day full of joy and exhilaration.Easter (Pascha) begins on the Saturday of Lazarus (the Saturday before Palm Sunday) with children and their teachers being very happy because they will spend two weeks far from school.
All over the country a plethora of customs and traditions are observed during the week prior to Easter (Holy Week).
The preparations for the celebration of the Resurrection start on Holy Thursday. On that day housewives traditionally prepare tsourekia (sweet buns resembling brioche) and colour eggs with special red dyes.
In the past, people used to place the first red egg on the icon stand of the house in order to cast out evil spirits.
In some villages they used to mark the head and the back of small lambs with the red dye used for the dyeing of the eggs. They also used to keep one of the big round Holy Thursday loaves at the icon stand in order to protect the members of the family from spells. Holy FridayFriday is the most sacred day of the Holy Week, the day of the culmination of the passion of Christ with the deposition from the cross and Christ’s burial.
Because it is a day of mourning, housewives do not do any house chores, avoiding even cooking. Women and children go to church to decorate the Epitaph (Bier of Christ) with flowers they collect or buy.
In the morning of Good Friday, Christ’s Burial is reenacted in church and in the evening the Epitaph procession takes place.
On Easter Saturday morning, preparations start for the festive dinner of the night of the Resurrection and housewives cook “maghiritsa” (a tripe and herbs soup). Shortly before midnight, people gather in church holding white candles which they light with the “Holy Light” distributed by the priest. When the latter hymns “Christ is risen” (Christós Anesti), people exchange wishes and the so-called “Kiss of Love”. With the “Holy Light” of the candles they thrice make the sign of the cross on the door post over the front door of their houses for good luck. Then they allgather around the festively laid table, they crack red eggs and feast on the traditional “maghiritsa”.
On Easter Sunday morning, in many parts of the country lamb is prepared on the spit. In other regions, the meat for the Easter table - lamb or kid - is roasted in the oven.
There is a festive atmosphere everywhere and people eat and dance usually until late into the night.
All over Greece Holy Week and Easter are celebrated in great splendour and devoutness.