What Easter means to me

 

“Greek Orthodox Easter would have to be my favourite time of year. It reminds me of how blessed I am to have been born into a rich culture that cherishes faith, family and food.

Since I was a young girl, I’ve loved Holy Week and have fond childhood memories of this powerful, moving and humbling period that is filled with so many Greek traditions and customs.

During Holy Week, in Greek households all around the world there are lots of beautiful foods being baked. I remember my Yiayia, my Mum and all my aunties in my Yiayia’s kitchen- with their lovely production lines of dyed red eggs, tsourekia and koulourakia. My cousins and I would be there watching and helping them make all the delicious Easter treats, which would be served after midnight mass.

Now as a mother, I want to pass on these traditions to my children.

On Thursday, Yiayia (my mum) and her grandkids made tsourekia and koulourakia together, they also helped Yiayia dye the Easter eggs red and loved every minute of it. Seeing the smiles on their faces and curiosity in their eyes makes this time of year even more special for me now- as a parent and an auntie.

To paint an even clearer picture of my Easter experiences for you, I should mention I was very lucky to have been brought up in a large Greek family. My parents live in the same street as my mum’s twin sister, her eldest sister and her brother- so there are four siblings in total that live within 200 metres of each other. Not to mention the Koumbari and other family friends in between- so all up there are over 12 Greek families in the same street – yes, it’s like a small Greek village in Sydney, Australia.

They live 10 minutes away from our local Greek Orthodox Church, so at around 10pm on Easter Saturday, about 50 of us, young and old, meet at the top of the street and walk up to church together. After Mass, we walk back – some with lanterns and others with cups around our candles – all in the hope of a) not burning each other and b) bringing back the holy flame to the street and into each home – so we can burn a cross into the doorway and bless our homes for the year.

My parents host post-midnight mass dinner for all the aunties, uncles and cousins. We sit around the table, with the holy flame always forming the centrepiece and red eggs, tsourekia, koulourakia and bowls of magiritsa, avgolemono and glasses of red wine fill up the rest of the space, as we break our fast. There is lots of eating, chatting, laughing and cracking of the eggs, which is most enjoyed by the younger members of the family. Then, after a good night sleep, we wake up in the morning and do it all again.

As a child I remember my Pappou, my Dad and uncles waking up very early and gathering in my grandparents’ backyard. The men would get the lamb spit fire going and manually spin the lamb around, so it would cook evenly. All of the cousins lined up to have a turn at spinning the lamb – this was part of our Easter fun.

Nowadays the lamb gets cooked in an electric spit roaster and Easter Sunday is at my aunties’ house, as my grandparents have passed away.

Even though times have changed, my fond memories of Easter time will never be forgotten – especially those surrounding my Pappou and Yiayia – they are very vivid, and around this time of year is when I miss them most. Going to church with my Pappou every day during Holy Week, making koulourakia and tsourekia with my Yiayia, and singing and dancing with them on Easter Sunday – these are the beautiful Greek Easter memories and traditions they gave and taught their grandchildren in the Diaspora.

So I am now slowly coming to understand the true meaning of ‘the circle of life’. As now it’s our parents’ and our generation’s turn to try and continue these beautiful Greek traditions, customs and values to pass on to our children.

This Sunday there will be a huge feast of lamb, kontosouvli, spanakopita, homemade bread, lemonatikes patates, red eggs, tsourekia, koulourakia, galaktoboureko and many more delicious Greek dishes to eat.

Mostly there will be lots of laughs, Greek music and a celebration of life, love, family and most importantly- faith.

Wishing you all Kali Anastasi & Kalo Pascha – from my family, to yours.”
Penny xxx

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