Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian religion. The devout and mournful atmosphere of Holy Week, followed by the joyous and very uplifting moment on the evening of the resurrection and Easter Sunday!
It is well known that the fast of Holy Week is quite strict. It begins on Holy Monday and lasts until Holy Communion is taken on Holy Saturday. Fasting does not mean that you cannot eat flavorful food created in a well thought out manner.
I have so many wonderful suggestions for you I don’t know where to begin! Vegetables, Seafood, Tahini and Honey are very prominent throughout these days of fasting; as well as the absolutely scrumptious Semolina Halvah, a soft, orangey, cake-like halvah that you can find freshly made in every household all over Greece!
Let’s take a look at the most popular traditional foods and customs for Holy Week….
Holy Thursday honors Christ’s Last Supper. Christ’s Crucifixion is “reenacted” in church with a special mass and all night is spent adorning and embellishing the “Epitaphios”, which symbolizes Christ’s Tomb.
It is a day of mourning and it is customary to dye eggs red in many countries. The red color symbolizing the blood of Christ that was spilled when He was stabbed by a Roman soldier while on the Cross.
In Greece the tradition is to have egg cracking “fights” on Holy Saturday and on Easter Sunday. Each person picks the “strongest” egg and they hit one against the other to see whose egg cracks! It symbolizes the resurrection of Christ, since the egg is the symbol of life. When you crack the shell of the egg, a new life is born!
The traditional color chosen to dye Easter eggs is red although more and more people choose to use a variety of different colors and patterns, or a combination of both!
And of course, they make mountains of Mommy's Cookies… !
Many others stay more traditional and make Holiday Bread Wreaths, since the mastic and mahlab sweetbread is thought to be the modern Holiday bread wreath.
On Holy Friday the fasting week has reached its climax. The foods chosen are without any olive oil and a lot of vinegar is added. This is done as an indication of faith towards Christ, who was given vinegar to drink on this day. Many choose to eat salads with only vinegar added as a dressing. There is an abundance of bread along with olives. You can try making Spicy Olives or Νο Knead Bread.
After the “Resurrection” on Holy Saturday, families all over the country go home and enjoy one of the most traditional recipes… Easter Soup! It is the best thing to eat after such a fast and so late at night! It is the first dish that contains meat. I made it with chicken so it can be lighter, and also with greens and rice which are perfect for the stomach. There are manyother recipes you can make for this special night. I highly recommend Roast Leg of Lamb stuffed with Eggplant and Gruyere or Lamb Wellington!
The preparations for Easter Sunday usually begin from the evening before. Traditional favorites which are “kokoretsi” and the lamb that will be cooked on the spit!
The Easter table is set! Lots of beautifully dyed eggs, Easter soup, lamb, cookies, sweetbreads… the wine is flowing… the mood is cheerful… there is singing and dancing… and an abundance of love is in the air!
What many of you may not know, is that in many areas of Greece in the past, it was customary to leave the Easter table that was set untouched for 3 days after dining! Whatever small crumbs were left at the end of the 3rd day were collected and thrown in the fields so they could prosper!
I wish you all the best during this Easter Holiday! May it bring love, health and prosperity to all of your families and homes!
Happy Easter Everyone!