Greek Orthodox Easter in Crete: Traditions and Celebrations.
In Crete, Greek Orthodox Easter is one of the biggest celebrations of the year that lasts an entire week – Holy Week (“Megali Evdomada”). During these days, Cretans enjoy good food (not that they don’t enjoy it the rest of the year 😏) and gather with their friends and families to follow the fun Easter traditions in big companies. Of course, it is during Easter weekend that most of the happenings are taking place, and we are about to share with you about these celebrations in detail.
The Easter weekend starts with the Good Friday, when, according to the Bible, the Passion of the Christ concluded and the burial took place. On this day, people start gathering at their local church from the very morning to decorate “Epitaphios” – the symbolic bier of Christ. The Good Friday ends with an evening mass and a procession around the church with people singing traditional songs.
On Easter Saturday, it is time for Resurrection Service. In the evening people gather at a church and surrounding area and, at the stroke of midnight, the priest exclaims “Christos Anesti!” (“The Christ has risen!”) and the crowd answers “Alithos Anesti!” (“Indeed, he has risen!”). At this moment, people light up their white candles that symbolise the Holy Light, thus spreading the light across the Earth. It is believed that every year near the grave of Christ in Jerusalem, the eternal fire starts by itself and, once that happens, processions of priests from all over the world light up their candles and bring them to their countries.
The people take their candles and walk around the church to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, then go to their homes to draw a cross in front of the door to protect their household from evil. This beautiful ritual also indicates the end of the Great Lent that had started 40 days before, during which Cretans avoid meat. It is now time for the Resurrection meal! On every Greek table, you will find the traditional Easter soup “Mageritsa”. It is made with lamb tripe and might not be for everyone but it is an absolute must of Cretan Easter!
Sunday is the day for a big celebration. Cretans do what they know best – eat plenty of delicious food, drink lots of wine & raki and enjoy it all in a big loud company! Apart from the numerous small appetisers, salads and fries, you will always see the roasted lamb that also represents the Holy Lamb of God and “Tsoureki” – traditional Easter bread.
Throughout the day, people dance, sing, drink, eat and play Easter game – “Tsougisma”, where they break each other’s eggs and test its firmness.
It’s true that there are many different Easter traditions around the world but we can say one thing for sure: despite your religion and beliefs, Easter in Crete is a wonderful cultural experience to witness for everyone! (Unless you are a vegetarian 🙂)