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Easter in Greece: When the air is full of the scent of flowers

Posted on Tuesday 26th April 2016 by Crete Escapes

As experts in Greece and particularly Crete, we are frequent visitors to this beautiful island. Because of this we have been fortunate enough to experience the true and authentic side to culture and family life in Crete.  Although some visitors require nothing more than a crystal clear cove, powder blue sky and beach front restaurant, many of our customers are intrigued by the traditions and superstitions of the real Crete.

So following a wonderful trip to Crete during the Easter period, we decided to unveil a little more about this highly revered occasion...

For Greeks, whether religious or not, Easter is THE most important celebration of the year and preparations start well in advance.

Greeks follow the Eastern Orthodox Church and their Easter calendar does not necessarily coincide with the Catholic and Protestant Easter. This year (2016) Greek Easter Sunday was on May 1st. Next year (2017) it will be on the same date,  April the 16th.

Easter in Greek is Pascha - pronounced  Paska and Happy Easter is Kalo Pascha.

Religious people gather in church throughout the Holy Week, especially on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and on Holy Saturday which is the night of the Resurrection (Anastasi). This is a wonderful time as  young and old come together to worship.

Thursday is the day for dying eggs red (eggs are a symbol of life and red is the colour of life). In the evening girls decorate an icon with flowers so that on Good Friday morning it is ready to receive an image of Christ's body after it has been taken down from The Cross. In Crete it is common to use flowers from the lemon tree for this purpose.

Good Friday is a day of mourning and devout Christians will not eat anything all day but in the busy towns at lunch time (usually from 2 till 6) the restaurants will be full of less religious, holidaying Greeks. Late on Good Friday night, icons are carried through the towns and villages in great processions with people scattering flowers along the route. The air is full of scent from the flowers and the perfumes sprinkled on the icons. After the procession it is the custom to have a late evening meal of seafood such as calamares, shrimps or octopus accompanied by vegetables. Absolutely delicious! For religious people, this is the first time in the 40 day Lent period when animal protein will have been eaten. Even those who are not so religious will refrain from eating meat in Holy Week.

Christ's resurrection happens at midnight on Holy Saturday and this is followed by greetings of Chronia Polla (Happy Year) fireworks being set off and bonfires lit; Judas is burned on the bonfire which is similar to Guy Fawkes in the UK. In many villages a massive bonfire will be built in the middle of the main square in the village. The spectacle and celebrations go on until the small hours and are really something to behold!

Lent is now over and animal products can be eaten again which is why so many lambs are slaughtered for Easter Sunday when friends and family gather together to roast lamb on the spit. At the family party I went to there was also pork made into kebabs with cheese and onion, cheese pies and spinach pies, special soups and a fantastic choice of sweet things to end the meal. The tsikoudia and wine made at the family's homestead were extremely good and flowed freely. If you get the chance to be in Crete at Easter, go............................... Most of our villas are usually open in time for the Easter holidays.

If you have never visited the island of Crete before then we have put together an extensive guide of things to do as well as what to expect in terms of weather (beautiful!) and rainfall (negligible in the Summer)

Browse our selection of hand picked, stunning villas here or call us on 0330 111 0061 to chat to a member of our team!