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Cretan Easter traditions

In the Orthodox Church the feast of Easter is officially called Pascha and is the most important religious holiday in Greece and Crete alike. 

It is the perfect time to experience the authentic hospitality of Greece and immerse yourself into the Greek traditions and local culture as the celebrations does not include only the Easter Sunday, but also the week before, which is called Holy Week. Since this year we will celebrate Easter from our home, we would like to share, few of the Easter traditions that performed at Agios Nikolaos, during Pascha in Crete .

The start of Holy Week is Palm Sunday ( Kiriaki ton Vaion). On this day, people receive a piece of palm leaf from the church, commemorating Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem, when he was praised with people waving palm leaves. It is shaped in a cross and it is blessed from the priests during Sunday service. In addition, Lenten fast is broken with a fish lunch featuring bakaliaros or salt cod.

On the morning of Holy Thursday, women in Agios Nikolaos boil eggs and then, dye them in the colors of flowers, mainly the red poppy. The red color of the Easter eggs is either reminiscent of the spilled blood of Christ from the spear of the Roman soldier, or the joy of spring. Then, they start kneading. They make “kalitsounia”, handmade pies with Cretan soft cheese, tsourekia and buns in circular shape. Normally, in the middle of the circular bun are placed three red eggs, symbolizing the Holy Trinity.

During the evening of Holy Thursday,  women undertake the decoration of the Bier of Christ (Epitaphios) with garlands of flowers, so that in the morning of Good Friday it is ready to receive the image of the body of Christ when He is taken down from the Cross. Flowers of various colours are used but in Crete it is common to use the flowers of the lemon tree.

In the evening of Holy Friday tradition has it that people walk around the town following the epitaph, holding candles and chanting hymns, singing byzantine hymn, while the followers pass under Epitafio believing it is a blessing. After the ecclesiasm, people grab some of the flowers of the Epitaph to take them back home. It is a common belief that these flowers will bring grace to their household.

Early on Holy Saturday morning, local housewives start their preparations for the traditional feast that will follow after the Resurrection Mass at midnight. Among the typical dishes is mageiritsa (a meat soup made with finely chopped lamb offal, lemon juice, lettuce and dill).

On the evening, when the priest sings the hymn to the “Risen Christ”, around Lake Voulismeni, located in the heart of Agios Nikolaos, the spectacular burning of Judas takes place in the midst of fireworks, lit candles and people exchanged wishes “Xristos Anesti”. Leaving from the church, the locals carry the holy light walking to their house in silence. They believe that they will have luck for the whole year.

The Easter Sunday morning means an early start for the family members in charge of the preparation of the roasted lamb or kid on the spit which is the traditional Easter dish in Crete. The family gets together in one long table and of course, like in every Cretan feast, Cretans accompany their meal with traditional music and dance.

From all of us at bluegr Hotels & Resorts,  “Kalo Pascha”.