A Traditional Feast to Celebrate Easter like the Greeks

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Easter is the biggest celebration of the Greek Orthodox calendar Learn more about the festivities www.compassandfork.comEaster is the biggest celebration and feast of the Greek Orthodox religion. The customs and cuisines of how the Greeks celebrate Easter provide a great opportunity for the traveler to learn more about Greek culture and traditions.

As parts of the world prepare to celebrate Easter this week, it is a great opportunity to learn about the traditions of the Greeks and how they celebrate Easter. First off, many of us would be surprised to learn Greek Easter is not always the same day many countries in the Western world celebrate Easter. This year the Greek Orthodox religion will celebrate Easter more than a full month later. Easter Sunday is May 1 in 2016.

The reason for the difference in the timing of Easter? In the West, we use the Gregorian calendar, while many Orthodox churches use the Julian calendar. Some years Easter is the same date, but in many years it is different. If you are traveling to Greece you need to check when they will be celebrating Easter if you would like to be there for the festivities.

In the Greek Orthodox religion, Easter is the largest of the Christian holidays and is a time for feasting and celebrating. Tradition and food are important parts of the celebration.

Carnival: The Lead up to Easter

The Easter season starts many weeks before with the beginning of Lent. Many Greeks will abstain from eating meat and dairy products during Lent. As with many cultures, the Greeks begin Lent with Carnival celebrations. In some countries Carnival celebrations are huge festivals lasting as long as a month.

In Greece, Carnival is called Apokries. The Carnival lasts the three weeks before Lent Monday, and usually finishes about 7 weeks before Greek Easter. There are some large parades and celebrations for Carnival. You may want to check with a Greek travel agent to make sure you have the dates correct if you would like to time your visit for Carnival.

Celebrate Easter Week in Greece

A traditional feast to Celebrate Easter like the Greeks www.compassandfork.comThe week of Easter is an important week for the Greek Orthodox religion. The preparations and festivities begin on Wednesday and continue through Easter Monday. Greeks attend ceremonies at the Church daily during Easter week.


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Good Friday is a day of mourning and many government buildings lower the flag to half mast. In some villages and towns, a coffin is carried through the streets.

Midnight Saturday, marks the beginning of Pascha, the Sunday of the Resurrection. Fireworks at midnight mark the occasion. Sunday is a day of feasting (the Lent fast of dairy and meat ends).

Easter Sunday Feast: The Menu

A traditional feast to Celebrate Easter like the Greeks www.compassandfork.com A traditional feast to Celebrate Easter like the Greeks www.compassandfork.comThe feast to celebrate Easter has many traditional foods. Lamb would typically be served as the meat. Since it takes a while for the lamb to roast a number of mezethes (small dishes) or appetizers are served during the day. If the lamb is cooked on a spit (rotisserie), these small dishes are served while everyone waits on the main meal. Typical mezethes include olives, cheese, cheese pie, tzatziki (yogurt based dip), dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with rice).

Lamb or goat would typically be the meat. If there is a large group, traditionally it would be roasted on a spit. But these days it may be slow cooked in a wood fired oven or roasted in the oven. The meat is served with potatoes, spinach pie (spanakopita), and a village salad. Raki, an anise-based alcoholic drink, and local wine would typically accompany the meal.

Dessert is tsourekia or tsoureki, a sweet bread which incorporates the red colored eggs which are a symbol of Greek Easter. They are white hard boiled eggs dyed bright red. Red is the color of life and represents the blood of Christ. Eggs symbolize the renewal of life and many view the red egg as a message of victory over death.

Greeks have a traditional game played with the eggs. You tap your egg against those of friends and family, the owner of the last egg to be left uncracked is believed to have good luck for the year.

Other dessert may include spoon sweets or custard pie.

The Easter meal can be a family event or a feast shared with the whole village.

34 Responses

  1. Greek food is some of my favourite in the world so I can only imagine that Easter dinner is fabulous. I am pretty sure I could live off Greek olives and Fried cheese right now.. aha

    • Editor
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      Oh yeah. It is a great diet. Greek food is definitely one of favorites. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Kevin Wagar
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    Looks like a great way to celebrate Easter! Delicious food and celebrations!

    • Editor
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      Greece is such the place for festivals, some of them dating back centuries. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Criz
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    Wow, I didn’t know that they celebrate Easter more than a full month later. I had been to some of their churches during my last visit to Greece and love the uniform colors of churches. I love the food in Greece too. Lamb is also one of the Easter traditional foods here in Norway and as a Catholic, it is really interesting for me to know how others celebrate Easter.

    • Editor
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      Here is a traditional, Greek, lamb recipe. One thing I’ve noticed is how large parts of the world really celebrate Easter for the reason it is meant to be celebrated, rather than it being known to share Easter eggs! Thanks for your comment.

    • Criz
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      Great! Will look into this recipe, thanks! This is also good for Christmas and other occasions actually! 😉

    • Editor
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      It’s good any time actually. Greek food is hard yo beat. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Liesbeth
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    So nice to see how traditions change from one country to another… Lovely post!

    • Editor
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      We really enjoy getting into the culture of a place and attending long running festivals is one way to do that. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Wow! Greeks have an awesome way of Celebrating their easter! Happy easter. I haven’t taste a lamb and I wonder how good is the meat.

    • Editor
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      Lamb is the best and more widely eaten throughout the world than beef, which often surprises people. Thanks for your comment.

  6. chandi
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    Back in 1989 when I spent a few months in Greece in my budget backpacking days, I was lucky to spend Easter in Greece on a small island. Your post brought back memories.

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      So glad about that Chandi. A wonderful place to be at Easter. Thanks for your comment.

  7. My friend is married to a greek, he cooks for us sometimes and its just really good. I bet it would taste even better if all the ingredients were readily available. Now, I am craving for greek food.

    • Editor
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      I don’t know where you live, but if in the US, Costco sells Australian legs of lamb. It is plentiful where I live and is my personal favorite for red meat. Thanks for your comment.

  8. Heather Cole
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    I’ve heard that it’s quite an event to witness (and take part in), so much better than what we do in the UK, which is pretty much eat chocolate and not really know the reason behind it! I didn’t know they celebrate it a month after ‘our’ Easter though!

    • Editor
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      The Greek Orthodox church follows the Julian calendar. The Catholic church follows the Gregorian calendar. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Lisa @garlicandzest.com
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    I’ve never been to Greece, but I love their food customs. I would love to visit around Easter time to participate in their celebration!

    • Editor
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      Lisa, any time is a good time to visit Greece but good if you can incorporate a festival. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Christina Guan
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    Ahh great post. The food section made me SO hungry. Happy Easter!

    • Editor
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      Christina, check out the next post for the Greek Lamb roast recipe and you will really be hungry!

  11. JEM
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    I’ve got a Greek friend who tells me about this event but yoir explanation is more comprehensive. Maybe next year I’ll go with her to witness this celebration.

    • Editor
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      I’m sure you will love it if you go. And the food is a bonus. Thanks for your comment.

  12. Mar Pages
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    I have to experience Greece during holy week one day soon, maybe next year! I love seeing a city change with their celebrated events, its enchanting and very humbling. Even through the rest of the year though, Greece always catches my breath with its stunning architecture. I could never get sick of the gorgeous white on blue.

    • Editor
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      It is a magnificent place to visit. The architecture is all you say. And the archaeological sites are just mind blowing. The other great place to experience Easter is in Central America. Great festivals, parades and street art. Thanks for your comment.

  13. Doreen Pendgracs
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    Terrific post, Elizabeth. I love celebrating holidays abroad and learning local customs. Thx for sharing the Easter celebrations of Greece.

    • Editor
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      Doreen, some of the festivals celebrated at Easter and other times of the year are just fascinating to observe. All very educational. Thanks for your comment.

  14. Eloise
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    While reading your article, I’ve realised I know nothing about the Easter tradition in my own country (well, except the chocolate… I wouldn’t let this opportunity in the air…) or the countries I’ve lived in! Now I feel bad… Thanks for sharing!

    • Editor
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      Eloise, I love your honesty. It is interesting what you say though that we don’t know anything about real Easter traditions. The west has become very commercial and the church not as influential as they were even a few decades ago. But in 97% of Greeks regularly attend church. We also find Central and South America to be big on all matters relating to the church. Thanks for your comment,

  15. Marteen Lane
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    This is wonderful! Lamb is a traditional dish here in Ireland for Catholics on Easter Sunday.

    http://itsatravelfullife.com

    • Editor
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      And in Australia, I am pleased to report. Thanks for your comment.

  16. Natasha Amar
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    I’d heard about Apokries but had no idea about what it was like to celebrate the festival. Are there any particular regions in Greece, where it’s especially worth visiting to have the best experience?

    • Editor
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      I’m guessing it is big throughout all of Greece. My suggestion is you check with a Greek travel agent for the answer to that question. Thanks for your comment.

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