Greek Easter, the country's most important religious festival, arrives accompanied by the smells of spring, the flower-carpeted ground and the rebirth of nature. Easter is one of many tourists' favorite times to be in Greece. First of all, even if you are not a devout Christian you can't help but be impressed by the East Sunday ceremonies or the way life begins anew after winter and 40 days of fasting. If you go to the countryside or to the islands wildflowers are in bloom and the hillsides are green from the winter rains.
Most people travel home to be with their families for Easter Sunday so ferries, buses and planes are fully booked, shops are closed, and most businesses take several days holiday. If you are unable to go to the islands or a village but have to stay in Athens, the city also seems blessed because everyone is gone. The streets are quiet and those people who have nowhere to go take walks in the streets and parks and the hills around the Acropolis, also adorned with green grass and wildflowers.
Many of the traditions that bond the generations together occur during the Easter feast. Easter is the most sacred and celebrated of all Greek holidays. It begins with a 40-day fast. Of the 40 days one week, Holy Week, is chosen for the complete fast. During that time no meats, dairy, fish, poultry can be eaten. Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week, is a day when only fish and fish courses are served. On the Saturday before Easter Sunday the food that will be served for the Easter feast is taken to the church and blessed by the priest. The red eggs are to be eaten just after the Resurrection and the traditional Resurrection soup, "mageritsa," will be the wife's first concern. Her preparations will begin early in the Holy Week.
Easter Sunday is the biggest church holiday in Greece. All over the country lambs are roasted on a spit and there is wine in abundance. Red eggs are cracked against each other and the person with the last remaining uncracked egg will have good luck. This is the most beautiful time to be in Greece.
Easter Sunday is the favorite day of the year for most people. A lamb is roasted and friends and families get together to eat, drink, talk and dance. In some towns like Arachova and Livadeia there is a community celebration with rows of lambs roasting in the village square. In other towns like Monemvasia, Rhodes, Hydra, Halkidiki, Koroni, Chania and Leros the effigy of Judas Iskariot is burned. In Syros and Karpathos people bring their guns and shoot Judas as a scapegoat for society's ills.
Greek Orthodox Easter 2005 fell on May first - when the weather was warming up nicely, the Greek spring wildflowers were in full display, and prices were still low. There won't be another Easter in May until 2013. If you get a chance to celebrate Easter in Greece do not pass it up. It will mean song, dance and "Kefl" around the fire pit as the spit slowly revolves cooking the lamb. If you've ever wanted to experience the glories of Greek Orthodox Easter in Greece start planning now.