Greek Easter Rituals

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img_4156I’m often asked why us Greeks celebrate Easter on a different day than everyone else. This question is only partly true as I can recall when our Easter fell on the same day as the Catholic Easter. A calculation is made and there are three main factors that affect the date:

  1. It is based on the Julian calendar (not Gregorian);
  2. Greek Easter always follows the Jewish Passover;
  3. It must be on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.

For those who want to peek into the future, you can click here to see what day Greek Easter falls on and even see which years Greek and Catholic Easter are celebrated on the same day!

Tonight, “Megali Pempti” or Thursday before Easter is the day that the Greek-Orthodox go into mourning over Christ’s death. In the church, the icons are covered with dark cloth and the church bells are silences until Easter Sunday.

Tomorrow being Good Friday, the Epitaph is carried through villages and cities and even here at my family’s parish, the Epitaph leads a procession of mourners around the neighborhood. The Epitaph represents Christ’s tomb and it’s decorated with flowers. I’ve had the honour of carrying the Epitaph despite it’s weight, being made out of solid oak.

Most of you who live in a city or town with a Greek church will know how busy and significant Easter Saturday is, what with the swolen numbers of parishoners and traffic snarling up the vicinity. Last minute preparations for Easter Sunday take place, as the rush to complete all the tasks is hastened by Greeks attending church services through the week.

Families will go to evening mass armed with candles (lambades) and red-dyed hard-boiled eggs. The red colour symbolizes the blood of Christ. Prayers continue all through the service until the stroke of midnight when the priest announces, “Hristos Anesti”.img_4183

The church bells once again chime, Greeks embrace family and friends, the custom of “cracking the eggs” commences (whoever’s egg withstands cracking will have good luck for the coming year). Then it’s onto to home where a warm pot of Magheritsa (Easter soup with offal) awaits the family. Lent is now over, a good night’s rest is needed as Easter Sunday quickly approaches and the festivites begin.

With today being Thursday, red eggs and Tsoureki were being made in most Greek homes. The tsoureki is a Greek Easter bread that has the light and fluffy consistency of a brioche but it’s sweet, scented by mahlepi, orange zest and mastic. img_4155

Many readers have made my family’s version of Tsoureki with success. It’s light, fluffy and very flavourful. The aroma of this bread is dreamy and I often have in the morning with butter and coffee for breakfast.

The next couple of days will be busy ones for my family and myself. Between preparing for Easter Sunday, attending church services and cooking and entertaining…time is short. I might squeeze in a micro-post here & there…no promises.

To my Greek friends, Kali Anastasi and to the rest of my readers…thank you for your continued reading of my blog, your kind emails, comments and suggestions that continue to fuel my passion for food, Greek food, entertaining and above all, family and friends.img_4186

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis

© 2009,
Peter Minakis

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35 Comments for “Greek Easter Rituals”


I love coming over here Peter. You always make me feel right at home… somewhere in Greece ;-) Happy Easter, my friend!


I’ve never heard of the red eggs thing before – once again I’ve learnt something new from your amazing blog Peter! That bread looks yummy.


MMMMM…Peter, that easter bread looks delicious!
Last year for eater, I got another special easter bread from my Greek neighbour. It was called: Tsoureki with chestnut cream & it was super delicious!!


I absolutely love Tsoureki! My mom makes it every year for Greek Easter. Just found your blog and am excited to keep visiting. Being part Greek I am always looking for new Greek recipes!


That bread looks awesome.

I keep thinking that those eggs look a lot like the PA Dutch beet eggs.

Thanks for sharing the Easter traditions. IT sounds like a fascinating feast. My family is no not into celebrating Easter these days (well, except for raiding my home for food). It does seem odd that the Greek Easter isn’t the same as the Catholic Easter since the whole Sunday-after-full-moon-after-vernal equinox also applies, but then again, different calendar.


Peter, Happy Easter and thank you for this wonderful story. I think you could make a poster out of some of these images, esp. those with the red eggs. ps I hope your egg is the last to crack :)


Now I know more about Greek traditions. I am surprised to see your country uses Red eggs too! As the Chinese, we make them when a new born baby becomes one month old and the eggs will be distributed to friends, relatives and colleagues to share the joy.


Janet, thanks for adding that piece of info on red eggs in Chinese culture. I’ve often wondered why there are red-dyed eggs in the Asian supermarkets here…now I know!


Christos Anesti! Hope you had a very Happy Easter!! As usual, it was lovely to follow your blog in the meantime… I’m just curious to see what you’ll be posting next… you have to include some pics of your Easter day festivities!! I’ll be waiting!!