Celebrate Easter like an Athenian

Greece is home to many religious festivals all year round, with the celebration of Easter standing out among other. Easter is one of the greatest celebrations of Christianity and especially in Greece it is attached to local customs and centuries-old traditions that are deeply rooted in greek culture.

During this time, greek islands and villages are filled with tourists, as well as locals who want a getaway from the big cities, as well as many tourists who wish to experience the local festivities and traditions. However, if you decide to spend Greek Orthodox Easter in Athens you will be treated with a memorable and very spiritual experience. In spring the city blossoms and you will get the opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful and historical churches in Greece, while the warm weather and bright sun allow you to enjoy the city at its finest.

 

During the Holy Week many christians are fasting, and the abstain from eating certain food, like meat and dairy products. Meanwhile, according to tradition locals prepare the festive dinner for the Resurrections night, where the main dish is the “maghiritsa”, a tripe and herbs soup. In preparation for Easter Sunday, they prepare the Easter brioche, called “tsoureki” that they enjoy on Sunday morning, and they dye eggs.

 

On Good Friday, you will get to witness the city under candlelight in total sanctity. the sacred day of the climax of the Passion of Christ, people decorate the Epitaph. In the evening, churches around the city hold a candlelit procession through the streets of Athens. On this day, it is worth visiting the Church of Agios Georgios (St George) in Karytsi Square, where the procession of the epitaph is led by members of the Greek Navy. The Church of St. George stands out for its mesmerizing hymns sung by the Themistoklis Polykratis’ vocal quarter, which has been singing the Easter hymns for over 120 years. Nearby, in central Athens, you can find another notable church, the Agia Irini (St Irene) Church, where you will witness a unique musical experience listening to the world famous Greek Byzantine Choir perform hymns and is a favourite among locals and visitors. A little further you will find the church of Agios Nikolaos or St Nicholas in Plaka, is popular with locals. The Church is famous for its church bell, which was the first to ring in Greece to signify the end of the Greek War of Independence in 1833 and again on October 12, 1944 after the liberation of Greece from the Nazi’s.

 

On Easter Saturday, in a ritual conducted for over 1,200 years, the ‘Holy Fire’ is lit at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. The light is then flown into Athens on a specially chartered flight directly from Jerusalem. On this day, Athenians gather at their local churches around midnight, in anticipation of the resurrection. Be at the Metohi tou Panagiou Tafou church in Plaka by 9pm to receive the light, hear the ceremony and participate in the festivities, against a background of loudly pealing bells and an impressive display of fireworks that light up the night sky.

 

As the 40-day period of fasting comes to an end, on Easter Sunday, according to customs families gather around the Easter table and rejoice, eat and drink. The main dish is most commonly lamb or kid, prepared on the spit or roasted in the oven, for which the preparation begins early in the morning.

 

The feast of Easter Sunday is celebrated throughout Athens, and even if you are not visiting family or friends in Athens for Greek Orthodox Easter, you can get a taste of tradition on this day, heading out to the old city of Plaka. There, many tavernas are participating in festivities with rich menus at regular prices and live music in a festive joyful atmosphere.

 

Spending Orthodox Easter in Athens, you will get the chance to experience the most spiritual and sacred period in Greece leading up to a large celebration, where families come together to rejoice and commemorate the beauty of life and nature.