Greeks have a very religious way of celebrating Easter that closely mimics their homeland traditions. Philip Adikimenakis, freshman at Baruch College and first generation Greek immigrant, described the many traditions his family participates in both at home, and at their local church.
Mr. Adikimenakis states, “Well, the most important aspect of easter has to be going to church and celebrating the resurrection of Christ in such a traditional way. I went to church all week for like 3 hours a night. It is really important.” Matt Barrett, in his Greek travel guide, shows a similar tradition back in Greece, “The week of Easter begins on Palm Sunday and there are church services everyday commemorating the last week in the life of Jesus Christ.” 1
Mr. Adikimenakis continues, “During holy week, there is a strict fast, cant eat meat or dairy or that much food whatsoever.” According to Mr. Barrett, in Greece, the fast is during the whole Lenten season, lasting 40 days.
Holy Friday and Holy Saturday continue the religious festivities. Mr. Adikimenakis describes, “On Holy Friday, the whole church community walks around the block that the
church lies on to symbolize Jesus walking with the cross to the place where he was crucified. On Holy Saturday, when we actually celebrate the resurrection, everyone lights candles and says, ‘Xristos Anesti’ to one another with a response of, ‘Alithos Anesti’ meaning ‘Christ has risen’ and ‘Truly He has risen.’” Mr. Barrett describes a slightly different Holy Friday celebration consisting of a Christ figure being taken down from a cross and wrapped in white cloth. However, the Holy Saturday celebrations almost exactly mirror each other. Mr. Barrett states, “The lights are turned off at midnight and the priest announces that Christ has arisen from the dead as candles are lit from his and then from each other…People greet each other happily with the words Christos Anesti which is replied to with Alithos Anesti.”
Easter Sunday, for the Greeks, is a day of feasting. Mr. Adikimenakis states, “You’re allowed to eat everything and there is a lot of food: lamb on a spit, spanakopita mousaka,
feta, chicken, pita, olives, etc.” He then describes an interesting tradition, “There’s a basket of eggs, everyone picks one, cracks them with each other, and whoever’s egg lasts the longest and doesn’t crack is considered lucky. It’s kind of like winning the lottery, on a way smaller scale.” Back in Greece, similar traditions are celebrated. Barrett states, “Easter day is most people’s favorite day of the year. A lamb is roasted and friends and families get together to eat, drink, talk and dance…During the afternoon, red eggs are brought out and each person takes one and hits their end against someone else’s until the last person who has an un-cracked egg is considered the lucky person for the year.”
It seems that, minus a few minor details, some Greek families are able to mimic the traditions found in their homelands. New York City, and American commercialization has not profoundly affected the unique celebrations surrounding a Greek Easter.