Athenian Easter – customs & traditions

Greece hosts  religious festivals with deeply rooted customs and old traditions all year round. One of the greatest celebrations of Christianity is Easter (Pascha). In Greece, Easter is celebrated with respect for tradition, with old traditions reviving with solemnity, like a heart prayer that reaches the sky at the time of the resurrection! The faithful Christians all over Greece follow the Holy Week ritual devoutly, giving themselves body and soul into the culmination of the Passion of Christ and finally rejoicing in His Resurrection. Let’s take a deeper insight into ancient-old rituals and traditions…

Athenian Easter - customs & traditions
Athenian Easter – customs & traditions

The Easter celebration begins with a 40-day fasting. The week before Easter is called “the Holy Week”, when churches are full every evening with the people of all ages who follow the Orthodox traditions.

On Good Friday (Friday before Easter Sunday) you can follow one of the epitaphs (representing Christ’s grave that parades from the church, out to the streets and back to the church. The wooden construction is often intricately decorated with flowers and it quite a sight to see. It’s a very interesting aspect of Greek Orthodoxy to observe) of the center’s churches, which encounter at around 21.30 at the Constitution Square (Syntagma). Especially solemn atmosphere you will find on Holy Saturday, under the candlelights of city’s churches (arrive around 10:30 pm  or 11:00 pm and you’ll also get an amazing view to boot). The Holy Light is transferred in the Metochion of the Holy Sepulchre, where worshippers anxiously await its arrival. From there, the Light is transferred to all the churches of Athens and then by air to the rest of the country.

You can watch the Easter celebrations of Holy Week in any church, but also in historical monasteries which are located a breath away from Athens city center or even lying on the edge of some cliff … Let’s see some good suggestions to participate in different Easter traditions in Athens and do not forget: the most important is the good will and a good company! Check out the following churches:

•    Metropolitan Cathedral in Monastiraki
•    Church of Jesus Christ the Saviour in Plaka
•    Agia Aikaterini in Plaka
•    St. Demetrius the Bombardier
•    Kapnikarea Chapel
•    Penteli Monastery, where you can see the re-enactment of the Descent from the  Cross on Holy Friday
•    Syntagma Square, where all the Epitaphs from the surrounding churches meet for a communal liturgy at around 9.30pm on Good Friday

If you have not yet decided where to spend Easter and looking for smart and economic solutions for experiencing these festive days of happy mood and a little dose of optimism (finally!), join your families and friends and find together one of the above proposals!

Alternatively try a different kind of Holy Saturday liturgy at:

•    The Anglican Church of Saint Paul on Filellinon Street
•    The Russian church on Filellinon Street
•    The Ethiopian church in the Pentagono neighbourhood, on Mpochali Street
•    The Armenian Christian Orthodox church at  Kriezi Street on Koumoundouros Square

As with most Greek celebrations, no Easter is totally completed without a feast! On Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, you will find delicious dinners and hearty buffet lunches, combining traditional and gourmet Easter flavours everywhere in the town or even better you may join a greek family’s table (try the egg game-tradition, we paint the eggs red, which symbolizes the Christ’s blood, on Thyrsday and then try to crack someone elses egg on Sunday). At the traditional taverns of the historic centre, Plaka, Psyrri, Monastiraki and Thiseio, you can enjoy mageiritsa, lamb or goat in the oven with potatoes, and many other delectable Easter dishes. Try the tsoureki which is quite possibly the tastiest sweet bread you’ll ever have.

Touring the town! Luckily for you, the city won’t be too crowded in the Easter holidays, so you’ll have the perfect opportunity to tour its archaeological sites!

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