Easter in Crete

Easter in Crete

Greek Easter in Crete is celebrated with many local customs and traditions. Easter ('Paska') is the most important holiday in Greece, and in the Greek Orthodox Church. Greek Orthodox Easter usually falls one to five weeks after the western (Protestant, Catholic) Easter, while approximately once every four years it falls on the same date. In 2016 Greek Orthodox Easter falls on Sunday 1st May 2016 five weeks after western Easter which falls on 27th March 2016.

Clean Monday APOKRIES (Kathara Deftera) is a bank holiday and marks the start of Lent and 49 days of fasting, although nowadays few people strictly fast for the whole of Lent. Easter fasting excludes meat, fish (but not seafood), eggs, oil and dairy products from the diet.

The week leading up to Easter is known as Holy Week (Megali Evdomada) starts Monday 25 April 2016 and this is when most people take their fasting seriously. Church services are held throughout Holy Week. Many tavernas close during this week, and the ones that stay open have mostly seafood and vegetable dishes on their menu. The women dye eggs red (symbolising the blood of Christ) and bake Easter biscuits 'koulourakia' and kalitsounia (cheese pies), to be eaten after Easter Saturday when the fast ends.

Good Friday (Megali Paraskevi - 29 April 2016) is a day of mourning and churches usually ring out the death toll throughout the morning - a steady toll of one ring of the bell. The evening church service starts at 7pm and after the service, at around 8.30pm, there is a subdued procession through the streets carrying the epitaph, or coffin, with the congregation following behind, usually all dressed in black. Town shops are normally open 11am-3pm and supermarkets 8am-5pm on Good Friday, and many tavernas remain closed today.

On Easter Saturday (Megalo Sabbato - 30 April 2016), in Crete village, children spend the day preparing a bonfire and an effigy of Judas outside the church to burn after the midnight service. The Anastasi, the Resurrection, takes place at midnight and is the culmination of Holy Week. Churches across Greece are packed from 11pm onwards for the service and the lighting of the Holy Flame at midnight. Many tavernas are open after the midnight service. The 40-day fast ends at midnight today so meat is back on the menu and it's becoming very popular to celebrate the Anastasi and the start of Easter at a taverna or 'kentro' with live music. Town shops close at around 3pm and supermarkets around 5pm today.

Easter Sunday (Kyriaki tou Paska - 1st May 2016) tradition is the roasting of lamb outside on a spit; family and friends usually get together for a big party with plenty of food, wine, music, and dancing. Shops and supermarkets are closed today, so as museums and archaological sites. Tavernas are usually open.

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