Greek traditional Easter in Athens
In Greece, Easter is the most revered and significant holiday. Whether you consider yourself religious or not, the atmosphere and customs that characterize the Greek Orthodox holy week in Athens will move you. The Easter celebrations in Athens are not to be missed if you visit in the spring (between 13-17/04/2023). Ancient fasting practices, candle-lit processions, lambs spinning on a spit, and midnight fireworks are all hallmarks of Greek Orthodox Easter. Celebrating Greek Easter, also known as Pascha, in Athens may often be an even more enriching experience.
Not to mention the fact that thanks to special permission granted by the Holy See during the first part of the previous century, Catholic Easter is observed on the same dates as Orthodox Easter. Our neighborhood's Catholic and Anglican temples are open to both visitors and worshipers, and they also have stunning architectural features.
The Epitaphios starts at about nine o'clock. Women from each parish spend the day decorating a wooden bier to represent the casket of Christ. They create works of art by covering them in new blooms. The devout congregate at the church in the evening. They follow the priest and the pallbearers as they carry the holy bier that is topped with an icon of Christ while everyone is carrying a beeswax candle.
In our neighborhood, at Acropolis View Hotel, the most noteworthy Epitaphios processions take place at:
- Agios Dimitrios Loumbadiris, Thiseio
- Agia Ekaterini, Metoxi Panagiou Tafou, Agii Anargyri, Plaka
- Church of Agia Sofia, Acropolis
The celebrations on Saturday symbolize the triumph of light over darkness. They start with the movement of the enigmatic Resurrection flame from Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre. On Saturday night, large numbers attend midnight mass at every church while dressed festively. The lights of the church are turned off as midnight draws near. A candle is lit by the priest using the holy fire's eternal flame. "Christos Anesti" (Christ is risen!) is then declared.
The customary Easter dinner is then served to everyone. The main course is magiritsa, a soup cooked with leftover lamb's insides, rice, spring onions, dill, and seasonings like lemon juice. It is intended to calm the stomach after the extended fast and get it ready for feasting the next day. Everyone takes a crimson Easter egg after the soup and challenges his neighbor to a "duel", breaking tips against tips and bases against bases. The rest of the year is regarded as lucky for the person whose egg won't crack.
On this special day, you can explore, very close to out hotel, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where the Holy Light from Jerusalem first arrives). You can go to Thiseio for a coffee, enjoy a tsoureki at Takis Bakery, or walk to Areopagitou Street. For the Resurrection go to Lycabettus, in the chapel of St. George, which has a wonderful view of Athens at night, and you can enjoy the fireworks from various churches in the suburbs of the city.
On Easter Sunday, an entire lamb is cooked and then devoured. Early on Easter morning, they dig a pit, build a charcoal fire, and turn the animal slowly over coals for several hours. It's also customary to roast a lamb with kokoretsi in the oven if you don't have a garden. Some Athenians may even be seen lugging their loaded baking trays to the neighborhood bakery.
Easter festivities get underway early. While the ladies are busy preparing salads and meze and setting the table with a bowl of crimson-dyed eggs, the males gather around the spit to "supervise". Once the effects of a full day of drinking wine and being in a good mood kick in, the celebrations continue well past dusk, frequently with dancing.
Furthermore, many events take place that day. For instance, ELS Worship Music Festival, performances and concerts at the SNFCC, and at the Concert Hall.
If you are planning to spend Greek Easter in Athens, Acropolis View Hotel is the best choice as it is close to the most beautiful churches, sidewalks, and shops so you can celebrate Easter alongside the locals and in the most beautiful neighborhood in Athens!