The celebration of Easter in Greece is the most significant and symbolic of all the religious festivals and, because it is springtime in Greece, the whole country is ablaze with the beautiful colours of the season. Easter is traditionally a time when most people go to their villages or islands, to take part in these very traditional celebrations with their extended families and enjoy the peace and serenity of the countryside, dressed for the occasion in its magnificent spring clothes!
For those who remain in Athens or the big cities, the sights and sounds of Holy Week are pretty unique and a must to experience at least once in your lifetime. As you walk down the streets and go past the many churches, you can hear the bells toll mournfully or the melodious chanting of the hauntingly beautiful Holy Week hymns; you can see people going in to light a candle, to pray or just to sit and listen. If you are lucky and happen to be in Syntagma Square on Good Friday, you can watch the Epitaphio procession of all the churches in the near vicinity come together in the Square. A truly unique and magnificent sight!
For those of us who aren't fortunate enough to celebrate Easter in Greece, Easter wherever in the world we are is steeped in ritual and tradition and is very much part of our Greek heritage. Each Community's Church becomes the focal point of the community and the Holy Week services attract even those people who are not regular church-goers. Our homes are spruced up and readied for the family celebrations and the big feast after a period of fasting for Lent.
On Holy Wednesday we would put on our best and go to Church in the afternoon to be anointed with Holy Myrrh or Holy Unction. This was always interesting to us as children since we weren't quite sure what to do with the oil on our hands - we knew we shouldn't just wipe it off!
On Holy Thursday, we used to go for Holy Communion in the morning and in the evening everyone would go back for the Dodeka Evangelia service, waiting for the moment when the lights were dimmed and the Priest would come out bearing the cross of the Crucifixion and chanting the hymn of the Crucifixion
As we grew older we could join the church choir and take part in the service, singing the beautifully worded verses of the Egkomia or the Lamentations. The young men of the Community were the altar boys and carried the crosses and banners (Ksapteryga) for the procession.
Almost everyone attends the Good Friday (Epitaphio) Service, holding a candle and solemnly following the Epitaphio Procession as it is carried around the Church grounds or around the neighbourhood.
These are special memories to hold on to and cherish - the traditional bonds of Church and Family which are timeless and hold strong in the Greek Orthodox Church and especially at these times of economic strife.
The ongoing economic crisis in Greece means that most people have cut down on their excessive spending of the past to the essentials so that our traditions are not lost. Those who can have donated goods and time to wonderful individual voluntary initiatives such as Boroume, Oloi Mazi Boroume whilst the Church of Greece and other organisations have stepped in to help the needy, the unemployed and the homeless so that their families don't go without, especially at Easter.
Many Greek Organisations of the Diaspora such as AHEPA, have also raised funds for Greece's less able, and just yesterday, Archbishop Dimitrios of the United States presented financial aid of $500,000 to Archbishop Ieronymos to assist the Church of Greece in their mission.
Καλή Ανάσταση & Καλό Πάσχα!
At Global Greek World, We ♥ Greece...and it shows!