I love Easter in Crete it is so traditional and warm and friendly, this year was no exception.
50 days before Easter Sunday about half of the Cretan population start to fast. No meat, milk, fish and many other things. The really serious fast for 50 days, but a lot of people fast only a couple of weeks in between and the last week. The fast ends after the midnight mass Easter Saturday into Easter Sunday.
The fast is kicked off by the carnival. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of preparation is put into the carnival. There are processions through the towns and people as usual eat and drink a lot.
Mind you, this is the last chance for many to taste meat for 50 days! The day after the carnival the menu is beans, vegetables, calamari and shrimps.
During the 50 days up to Easter Sunday, lots of things go on, much that I don’t know about or don’t understand.
However, the 5 days before Easter Sunday there is church every day. Crete is Greek Orthodox and the church is a central part of the society, something that everybody agrees about.
In my village, Pikris there is Church service the last 5 days. Our Church is very small and very pretty. But not big enough to have its own priest, we share the priest with a couple of other villages.
Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon our local priest comes to the village church. During the service a couple of women read in a singsong way from the scripts after a while the priest joins and the shift between them.
In the village, it is mostly the women and some children that participate. The men will come to church later during the week. The service is easy going; people go in and out, talk and smoke outside and the children play.
Holy Thursday is more serious as this is the day of “the last super” the last meal Jesus and the Apostles had together. On this day, the service ends with the priest asking people to gather before him and holds out his overgown for us to stay under while he continues the sermon, after that he dips his finger in the oil of the holy oil lamp and draws a cross on everybody’s forehead and wrists.
Good Friday is the day that Jesus is caught and put on the cross. It is a sad day and the church service is from 21:00 to 23:00 in the evening. Again, people are gathering in and outside of the church. After the sermon the crowd follows the casket of Jesus. The casket, decorated with flowers and candles is carried in procession though the village. We walk through the village and on the side of the street there are women splashing perfume on the passer-by’s. I have no idea why, but its what they do.
Christ has risen and the fast is broken
Holy Saturday evening the church is packed with people all carrying unlit long candles. At the end of the sermon the priest brings fort the flame from Jerusalem. Everybody gathers to get their candle lit from the holy flame. People light their candles from each other and this flame is taken home and kept in oil lamps for the next year.
As soon as the church bells sound, the fireworks and shooting of guns into the air starts. Everybody greets each other with the words “Christ has risen”, in Greek its “Kristos Anesti”.
This marks the end of the fast and people go home to eat the traditional Easter soup “Magiritza”, play with the red coloured Easter eggs and eat other delicious dishes.
Sunday roast lamb
Sunday the barbecues are lit all over the island, the air is full of the smell of barbecued lamb. Everone you meet has a smile on their face, again the greeting “Kristos Anesti” and “Kronia Polla” (many years to you) is exchanged. If you happen to dump in on someone with the barbecue going, you will most likely be invited to join them for the meal. The tables are laid with all sorts of specialities, salads, breads and of course the roasted lamb, juicy and tender and tasting heavenly.
Easter week in 2015
Easter falls April 5th to 12th 2015, in case you are tempted to come and experience the Easter celebrations yourself. It’s also low season and you can stay in a hotel, apartment or villa at very reasonable prices. It is definitely worth the trip. Just remember that most years Easter in Greece and other European countries do not normally fall into the same period.
Lisa, Amazing Crete