GREEK EASTER: AN EXPLAINER
Every year Easter comes around and it gets celebrated any of which way our mostly secular society chooses. Some people gorge on chocolate in the name of Christ, others actually go to Church and engage in the religious ceremonies. Either way it’s great, if you’re Christian, Catholic or just a fan of public holidays.
Unless you’re Greek Orthodox. Then it’s a whole new series of celebrations, stream of Christianity and even a new calendar.
So for those of you that have wondered the following this week:
“Why are the roads blocked off around the Greek Orthodox church?”
“Why has every cut of lamb and octopus been bought out across the country?”
“Why are a bunch of ethnic people stocking up on Woolworths discounted Easter chocolates?”
Here’s Greek Easter explained the best way possible – in a list of the stereotypical things that usually happen during this period.
Everyone tries to figure out when our Easter actually is.
Basically Greek Orthodoxy works on a different calendar (the Gregorian one) and thus falls anywhere between a week before, to an entire month after the ‘normal’ Easter every year. No one actually knows when it is until the matriarchal Yia Yia (Grandmother) of the family tells us all two months in advance.
Forty hungry days begins.
Greeks do a hard core kind of Lent before Easter. We go a little bit more ‘Spartan’ on the tradition and call it ‘fasting’, where instead of giving up one thing, we give up everything for 40 days – think a strict vegan diet, no sugar, no alcohol, nothing illicit, and no sex.
All I can say is, Christ be with me.
Most people actually just “fake” fast
Traditionally, all Greeks take part in the 40 day cleanse. Realistically everyone just tells the most religious people in the family that they’ve been doing it, then compensate in the final week.
We go and get ‘blessed’ by a priest
Every year I go to church I see some people get anointed with holy oils, and some people get personally blessed by the priest. This means getting spat on. Three times.
Fashion Police of Mykonos
There is a reason my mother drags us to Rose Bay for church every year. Yes it may be the ‘nicest’ one, yes our entire family may go there, but let’s be real. Greek Orthodox Church becomes every bit a fashion parade as it does a religious ceremony. My people like to pray in Prada. Who said you can’t find salvation in Salvatore Ferrgamo?
Discount chocolate time
There’s nothing better than getting cheap chocolate from Coles. Saving that 30% on gifts for the family is little compensation when you have four hundred members to feed.
Walk around the block ceremony
If you’ve ever been on King St Newtown during a Greek Easter Friday, you’ve definitely regretted driving more than usual. The entire road gets blocked off and hundreds of Greeks gather to walk around the block with lambathas (candles). It’s every bit as spiritually beautiful as it is slightly inconvenient.
Getting ‘picked up’ at Greek events
This is also the perfect time to play lifelike “Greek Tinder”. Swipe right or left to the variety of Greek boys your mother just ‘happens to know’ as she and the rest of the women in your family take the opportunity to marry you off. Archaic I know, but it’s a great time to practice speed walking.
Stale bread and communion wine purges all sins for the year. The only downside to salvation is that usually old or sick people push in to go first and use the completely communal spoon.
Leading the lamb to slaughter
Depending on how big your Greek Easter will be, the lamb gets slected by the resident Theo’s (uncles) and Papou’s (Grandfathers) cooking it for the afternoon. Usually they keep the lamb at the farm until the day of the feast. Except that one time my Papou brought it home for all the kids to play with and then told us it ‘ran away’ the next day over our lamb lunch…
Snapchatting Xristos Anesti to everyone in your contacts
It’s the morning of Greek Easter and you have to snapchat all your friends – from mildly Mediterranean to complete Aussies, we wish them “Xristos Anesti” (Happy Easter).
Slow roasted lamb, salads with vegetables every colour under the sun, and a table of desserts to finish off. No restaurant will ever top a Greek family Easter feast.
Dealing with the confused white person
There’s always at least one white person invited to Greek Easter, and it becomes someone's duty to explain every single tradition that happens on the day – like why do we smash eggs competitively and how standing and eating a lamb carcass is a very important aspect of our culture.
The endless war stories
I can’t write down verbatim what gets said here, but let’s just say, thank God we start drinking scotch at 3pm, because otherwise the war stories and Greek tragedies told by every papou on the planet would be insufferable to deal with.
The clean up
I usually pass out by 5, but after we’ve divided and conquered the leftovers for guests to take home, we all look forward to eating the leftovers until the next Greek Easter.