Speaking of Greek Orthodox Easter 2021, the streets of Greece and Greek Orthodox communities throughout the world ring with happy voices sharing “Christos Aneste”! – Christ is Risen! Easter time, from the carnivals that come before the Lenten fast through Holy Week and the celebrations of Easter, is a special season in Greece.
Since the date of Greek Orthodox Easter is based on a modified Julian calendar (while the Western world uses the Gregorian calendar), the festivities sometimes do not occur at the same time as other Christian Easter celebrations. Sometimes the dates can be as much as a month apart.
Greek Orthodox Easter 2021
In 2021, Greek Orthodox Easter is celebrated on Sunday, 2nd of May 2nd — a month later than Easter observances in the Western church — and marked by unique traditions that make Easter in Greece different than Easter celebrations in other lands.
About Greek Orthodox Easter
Greek foods and traditions mark the season as uniquely Hellenic. The history of Greece traces back far past the beginnings of Christianity, but from the very earliest days of the Christian faith, the Islands of Greece and the Greek people have embraced these beliefs and made them part of the Greek heritage. Of all the Christian feast days, Easter is the greatest time for food, feasting, and celebration to people in the Greek Orthodox faith.
The celebrations for Easter truly begin two months before with Mardi Gras. The Carnival or Apokria season starts on the Sunday of Teloni and Fariséou and ends on Shrovetide Sunday with the Burning of the Carnival King…setting fire to an enormous paper mache effigy of Judas in the early evening. The fireworks and feasting continue throughout the night. The next day, Kathara Deftera is known as Clean Monday or Ash Monday
For Greeks, Clean Monday is one of the most festive holidays of the year. Decorated with the colorful local almond trees and mimosas bursting into bloom, nature invites children and their parents into the hills of Athens and the Greek countryside. Flying kites and feasting at local taverns or outdoor picnics is how Lent begins in Greece.
Htapothi Octopus and calamari or squid, prawns, Soupies Giahni – cuttlefish stewed in wine, rice pilaf with mussels, varieties of bean stews, and salads are main dishes traditionally served. Lenten dolmades – rice-stuffed grapevine leaves, Halva a semolina pudding, plenty of meat-free salads, and the once-a-year Lagana, a yeast-less bread, are a small portion of the unique tastes of the day accompanied by joyous music. If Apokria, Kathari Deutara, and Lenten Sunday feasts are the preliminaries for Greek Easter, Holy Week is the peak of these activities.
More About Greek Orthodox Easter
On Holy Thursday the bright dyed red eggs that are symbolic of Easter in Greece are prepared. Tradition says that the Virgin Mother, Mary, dyed eggs this color to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and to celebrate life. Every Greek family prepares these eggs as part of the Easter Sunday Resurrection Table. Otherwise, the women in Greek families are busy baking koulourakia – butter twist cookies and tsoureki – traditional sweet bread for the Easter feast.
On Good Friday or Great Friday, flags at homes and government buildings are set at half-mast to mark the mournful day. The Procession of the Epitáphios of Christ, the Ritual Lament that has survived from Homeric times, mourns the death of Christ on the Cross with the symbolic decorated coffin carried through the streets by the faithful. On Corfu, the procession of St. Spyridon is held on Easter Saturday.
Holy Saturday is filled with anticipation of the religious celebration of Easter and the Resurrection. People begin to gather in the churches and squares in cities, towns, and villages by 11 p.m. for the Easter services. Large white candles are carried by just about all of the faithful. At midnight the church bells toll as the priests announce Christos Anesti!… Christ is Risen! Fireworks are set off, in some areas gunshots are fired and each person in the crowd answers with the joyous responses of Alithós Anésti – Truly He is risen.
The people leave the churches and crowded squares and make their way to the homes of friends and relatives. The candles they carry are placed in each home and burn through the night to symbolize the Light returned to the world. Celebrations continue with the cracking of eggs and The Resurrection Table.
The Kokkina – pasxalina avga – dyed red Easter eggs that are found on the Resurrection Table become pieces of a traditional game. Each person takes an egg and challengers attempt to crack each others’ eggs. The breaking of the eggs is meant to symbolize Christ breaking from the Tomb. The person whose egg lasts the longest is assured good luck for the rest of the year.