How it begins
Easter is by far the biggest event of the year, celebrated everywhere with candlelit street processions, midnight fireworks, and spit-roasted lamb. Some islands are renowned for their unique Easter festivities.
Easter week, or Holy Week, is marked by different events each day. It all begins on the Saturday of Lazarus (one week before Easter Sunday) with children going door-to-door singing the hymn of ‘Lazaros’ and collecting money and eggs. The festive spirit continues throughout the week, and villages, towns, and cities come to life as locals decorate their churches and epitaphs, hold daily services, fast and follow specific customs.
Good Friday leads into Easter weekend with a day of mourning in recognition of the death of Christ, culminating in one of the most extraordinary nights of Easter week. Evening services are followed by candlelit processions through the streets, carrying the flower-decorated epitaphs (bier of Christ) and representing Christ’s funeral. Bands, cantors, clergy, women bearing myrrh, altar boys with liturgical fans, and townspeople singing hymns all join the solemn cortege. Along the route, people holding candles scatter flowers and perfume on the epitaphios. One of the most impressive of these processions climbs Lykavittos Hill in Athens.
Resurrection Mass (Anastasi), which takes place on Saturday night, is without a doubt the most important religious event of the year. At midnight, all lights are extinguished in the church and the priest uses his candle to light the Easter candle of a parishioner. The flame passes from candle to candle, light fills the church, and the moment of the resurrection is marked by kisses and greetings of ‘Christos Anesti; Alithos Anesti’ (Christ has Risen; Indeed he has Risen). Afterward, families go home and break their Lenten fast with a rich meal of traditional dishes and the fun ritual cracking of vibrant red-dyed eggs.
If you’re planning a trip to Greece for Easter, remember: the date of Greek Orthodox Easter is tied to the Julian calendar, so it won’t necessarily match up with Catholic Easter, which is calculated using the Gregorian calendar.
You can find further information about Festivals around the world on our front page.