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Easter in Greece is very different to Easter in the UK or the rest of Europe. Simply the Orthodox religion holds Easter as the most important ca lender event of the year. And whilst different parts of Greece may celebrate in a slightly different way the general celebration does not vary at all.  

The reason that Easter does not fall at the same time as the rest of Europe is because the Orthodox religion which amounts to around 97% of Greeks, choose to follow the Julian calender for their Easter Feasts.

A little history:

Ancient Babylonians had a ca lender of 12 lunar months each with 30 days, To keep in line with the seasons of the year, where needed,  they then added extra months. 

The Ancient Egyptians were the first to replace the Lunar calendar with a Solar calendar. The Solar year was measured as 365 days, which were then divided into 12 months, and 30 days to the month with 5 extra days at the end.  King Ptolemy 238bc  ordered that an extra day be added every fourth year. The ancient Greeks used a Lunisolar calender which amounted to 354 days. The Greeks were the first to insert extra months into the calendar based on scientific calculations, and months were then added at specific times during the cycle of the solar year.

The early 7th century BC  Roman calendar had 10 months, 304 days and started in March, it was later in the 7th Century that January and February were added. The confusion of the Roman calendar was so that because some months had 29 days and others had 30 they were having to change or insert a month every second year. It was Julius Caesar in 45 B.C on advice from the Greek Astronomer Sosigenes.  This calendar would become known as the Julian calendar and was purely a Solar calendar, 365 days, with 366 days every fourth year, The leap year. The name of the July month was Quintillis, however in 42 B.C. Julius Caesar changed it to Julius after himself. The calendar is known as the Julian calendar. 

Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th century under pressure because of discrepancies between calendar and astronomical times it was changed to the Gregorian calendar, which the Orthodox church rejected because it would alter the celebration of Easter and would at specific times co-incide with the Jewish Passover.  This subject of high controversy still existed right up until WW. In 1923 a congress was held by the Othodox church, where in this instance some Orthodox churches adopted the New calendar including Greece. 'However' the Easter Festival is still applicable to the older Julian calendar!. In fact even today this subject is still fairly controversial. Needless to say Greeks follow the Older calendar 'The Julian" for the Easter festival. *confusing isn't it? It is based on a computation of the vernol eqinox and the phase of the moon. Easter Sunday should fall on the first Sunday which follows the vernol equinox. I could go on and on...but I think you have the idea...Or you are in total confusion by now lol!


Leading up to Easter we have the Great Fast which is adhered to strictly. Fish but no milk, meat, butter, or Olive oil. Easter itself and all it's importance remains across Greece it is a very religious time.
The name given to this time of year is 'Pashca' which is Greek for Passover. The week before Easter is 'Holy Week' or 'Big Week' 'Great Week' (Megali Evdomada) The true meaning of this time of year to the Nation is literally felt amongst the people.  Each day will be noted by the word Big/Great in front of it. Big Monday etc. There will be church services both morning and evening across this week.

Palm Sunday 

The Sunday before Easter will celebrate Christ's entry to Jerusalem and crosses made of Palm leaves are distributed at the end of the service.

Big Thursday 

On this evening the crucifixion is commemorated.This is the day  the Greeks will dye eggs in a red dye which represents the blood of Christ.
The church service in the evening will have the holy cross with the effigy of Christ is decorated with wreaths and flowers. A large frame a 'bier is also decorated with the most amazing flowers, generally the candlelight is low during this service also.

Good Friday

 Solemn services will take place and it is a day when people remember their dead. There will be a procession where the bier is carried covered in flowers with an icon of Christ lying on them. The procession will go towards the town where candles and lights will be generally turned off as the procession reaches them. Flowers may be thrown and the service will stop to say prayers for those sick and those who may have died. This is the most moving of all Greek services.

Big Saturday

The whole week has focused on this day and a new hope is in the atmosphere. Last minute shopping for the big celebration in the late evening! In Our main towns square such as Argostoli there will be a massive service where thousands will congregate. The service will take place in the open air. Each person carries a candle. As the time ticks towards midnight the lights are all put out...the only light that will be burning is the single flame from the candle that has been lit from the Holy flame in the Church of the Ressurection in Jerusalem. This light will slowly be passed around to each person throughout the congregation as we head towards midnight. At exactly midnight when the pinnacle of brightness is reached 'Symbolic of the resurrection of Christ" The Head Arhbishop or priest will chant the words "Christos Anesti" (Christ has Risen) Then the noise starts...Massive explosions as the fireworks all start! Some of them are illegal with the odd bit of dynamite thrown in for good measure ( all perfectly normal) Bells will ring...People will be shouting. And with this many people will try now to carry their candle home and as they enter their homes the candle will be used to make the mark of the Cross on their door before they go inside. The feasting will begin...Soup and Lamb from the spit is very traditional. The fast is now ended. The celebration is starting. The greeting Christos Anesti is met with the answer "Alithos Anesti" ( he is risen indeed) The most common phrase is "Chronia Pola" Which means 'many years'

Easter Sunday

 Is fairly quiet as everyone goes to bed so late in the morning. There is a lovely feel to thel service known as the 'Service of Love" which despite their late nights many will attend! And in certain parts of Greece it is often the case that the service will open it's arms to all that enter the church and give the service in several translations. to symolize Gods message of spreading love to all!

Easter in Greece is wonderful it is full of great spirt, and a time that is memorable for all that come! Lot's of other traditions exist throughout this period, I have tried to simply explain a little of what happens during this period. To be here is something you will always remember!

If there are any questions you want ask please use the contact button at the top I will happily post the answers here if I know them of course!


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