Greek Orthdox Easter: Penance, pomp and Sunday’s gluttony! (photos)

Holy Week begins on Monday starting off a period of mourning and penance followed by feasting

Vespers Service


On Holy Wednesday, people head to church for the Service of the Holy Unction. The priest makes a sign of the Cross in oil on people’s forehead for health and luck.

Red eggs


Holy Thursday is typically set aside for dyeing red eggs that are symbolic of joy. These eggs are then cracked on Easter Sunday by hitting them against each other. The winning egg is placed near the icon and kept there for a year.

Epitaph Procession


Young girls decorate the Epitaph (Christ’s tomb) with fresh flowers. The procession of the Epitaph around the neighborhood takes place on Good Friday. The congregation follows with lit candles flickering in the dark.

Lambada candles


Children are typically given decorated Easter candles and new shoes by their godparents. These candles are lit during the Midnight Mass on Holy Saturday, known as the Divine Service of Love. The Holy Light is distributed at mass and taken home. A sign of the cross is typically made over the door before entering.



When Turkey occupied Chios in the late 1800s, the Greeks weren’t allowed to celebrate Easter so St. Markos and Panagia Erithiani churches in the village of Vrontado came up with a cunning plan. They staged a fake rocket war with cannons and fireworks that is practised to this  very day.



At the stroke of midnight on Holy Saturday, the sky of Leonidio lights up with hundreds of multicolored floating lanterns. It’s a captivating spectacle. The balloons symbolize the hope of the Resurrection as they rise to the sky.

Breaking crockery


In Corfu, after the Resurrection on Holy Saturday, the townspeople throw old crockery out their windows and break these into the street as a symbolic casting out of Judas.



After midnight mass people break their Lenten fast with a dinner consisting of a type of fricasse soup known as mageiritsa (liver and lamb’s intestine, lettuce,dill and green onions) as well as a special bread known as tsoureki and red eggs.

Lamb on a spit


Easter Sunday is a celebration and time of eating and drinking. Lamb is typically barbecued on a spit.

Burning Judas


The custom ofhanging and then burning Judas is still kept in many areas. A scarecrow Judas is hung and burnt.

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