Greek Easter, Tradition, food and drinking: Business as usual
For every Greek and Greek community worldwide Easter is coming, and they’re preparing for it like every other year: a lot of food, a lot of wine and beer, talking and laughing and dancing along with family and friends. Every family has someone who usually hosts the Easter events, usually someone with a big back yard. Some even dig a big hole in the ground and fill it up with fire, over which the family’s lamb will be roasted for a few hours before being eaten… But wait, I’ m going too fast, let’s take things one step at a time, shall we?
So, tradition has it that for 40 days before Easter, Greeks are fasting for Lent (check out what delicious Greek meals you can eat instead, here). And finally Holy Week arrives, the most prestigious and important week for Orthodox Christianity, which ends with the “sacrifice” of the lamb, a tradition that goes back to Jewish Easter.
Holy Saturday is the day people are dressed nicely, waiting for the celebration of the Holy Resurrection at midnight, where the Divine Liturgy ends with fireworks and the Holy Light being spread among the people holding their “Lampada” (big candle). It is a truly beautiful time to be in Greece and celebrate, full of joy, hugging everyone around as you say “Χριστός Ανέστη- The Christ has been resurrected” to get the reply “Αληθώς Ανέστη- He truly has”.
The ceremony ends, and families gather for dinner (pretty late to be honest, but every time is a perfect time to eat). Some are preparing the dinner table, while the rest “bang the eggs”. Every table has a set of red painted, boiled eggs on the table, and people play the game of banging them, teasing the one whose egg breaks. So, dinner is ready and served, with one dish dominating the dinner table: Mageiritsa («Μαγειρίτσα»). Let me explain: When, during the week, you go to the butcher to buy the lamb, you also buy the lambs guts and liver. Why? Because of Mageiritsa and kokoretsi, obviously! So, Mageiritsa is basically a soup. It is a soup that has leets and some of the lambs liver, nicely chopped and covered in an egg and lemon sauce. It’s a very rich in flavor dish, but I’m warning you, it’s pretty heavy, so think twice if you’re going to eat it after midnight. Of course, the boiled eggs that were cracked earlier are now cut in pieces and served with some olive oil, salt and pepper (maybe some lemon too). Saturday ends either trying to relax after a post-midnight heavy dinner like that, or by going out to celebrate with friends, enjoying the vibrant nightlife, while the rest of the family makes the preparations for the next days’ –even bigger- feast.
Really early on Sunday morning (the party-goers are either sleeping, or joining the rest immediately after their night out) the most experienced family members are preparing the lamb, skewering it, tying it up firmly, giving it a first touch of salt, pepper and garlic. The same ones are usually responsible for the kokoretsi, the second, long skewer of the lambs liver and some pieces of fat (for a thicker taste), wrapped around all the length of it with the lambs intestines. If you’ve visited Greece at least once, I’m sure you have tasted it, it’s an absolute classic.
Well, everything is ready! The lamb and kokoretsi are being placed over the fire, and someone is responsible for their slow roasting. Music starts playing, beers and wine are being brought out, family starts waking up or coming over, salads and tzatziki and all kinds of smaller side dishes are being prepared. Greek Pascha is underway!