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Greeks love Easter with its message of love, the new beginnings, the emotional Holy Week - or Passion Week as we still say in Greek.

Everything about this special holiday is tied to the culture and the traditions.

Traditions we cannot really trace them back in time.

In this article you’ll find 7 of the most important things you need to know about Easter in Greece. For Orthodox Christians, many of these are very similar of course, but there are always things that might surprise you.

At the very end of the article, there’s an Easter vocabulary list for you.


#1 Sarakosti

After the 40 days of Lent called Σαρακοστή (from the number 40 , σαράντα), Greeks get prepared for Easter.

Σαρακοστή is pictured as a woman with 7 legs (for the 7 weeks until the Easter week), hands in prayer and no mouth, to represent the Lent. In some areas, people still make a Σαρακοστή dough lady, from an inedible salty dough - to last until Easter.

Starting on the Saturday after Clean Monday, they cut a leg. The last leg is cut on Holy Saturday and it is hidden in a dried fig. Whoever gets this fig is lucky!

Why not make one Σαρακοστή this year? It’s very easy. Watch the video in Greek here and practice listening as well! (Use the gear icon to slow the audio down if you like)


#2 Easter candle & the Godparents

Children are over the moon this season: Easter holidays last the same as Christmas. 2 whole weeks!

But it’s not the only reason to be happy.

Their νονά (godmother) or νονός (godfather) gives them their λαμπάδα (the Easter candle) and also the usual Easter gift: new shoes or money. A big chocolate egg is a favourite treat as well.

In the Greek culture, the relationship between νονά (godmother) or νονός (godfather) and the child, is a special one, as it starts at the baptism and lasts for a lifetime.

#3 Wishes

Now there’s admittedly some confusion about the wishes in Greek.

We do love our wishes for sure. We have plenty.

"Happy Easter" (Καλό Πάσχα) in Greek is the wish you’d say before and only before Easter to refer to the Easter celebrations and Holy week as a whole.

Closer to the Resurrection on Sunday, Greeks say "Καλή Ανάσταση".

But on the day of Easter, on Sunday, you’d say "Χριστός Ανέστη".

Confused? It"s about the order up to Resurrection:

1. Καλό Πάσχα (for the holiday period only)

2. Καλή Ανάσταση (for the night of Resurrection)

3. Χριστός Ανέστη (it means the Christ is risen, so it is said on Easter Sunday)

I can’t leave you without a bonus wish. Αληθώς Ανέστη (He is truly risen) is the reply when someone says to you Χριστός Ανέστη:

- Χριστός Ανέστη, Κατερίνα μου!

- Αληθώς Ανέστη, Γιώργο, με υγεία!

And of course, don’t forget Χρόνια Πολλά, the all-year round, favourite wish.

# 4 Baking

On Μεγάλη Πέμπτη, it’s the baking day.

Τσουρέκι is the sweet bread we make (and eat in large quantities!) for Easter day. It’s a mixture of aromatic spices such as mahleb, mastic and coriander - it smells divine.

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There are also the special κουλουράκια, (a bit like braided or round cookies) we make on this day.