DIY Greek Easter: How To Celebrate At Home

Greece's biggest holiday will undeniably look different again this year, but don't despair: here's how to celebrate Greek Easter in the #StayHome era.


Easter celebrations look the same every year, and Greeks know them by heart. After throwing open the windows of their vacation homes in the mountain villages or islands of their ancestors, forcing out the locked-in, damp winter air, they bring in vases of wildflowers and gather the family to bake koulourakia (traditional cookies).

They attend the church services, even if they’re not normally church-goers. They watch the funerary procession commemorating the death of Christ (Epitaphios) on Good Friday, then joyfully celebrate his resurrection (Anastasi) with bowls of offal soup in the middle of the night on Holy Saturday, and spit-roast lambs and try to beat their extended family in games of red egg tapping on Easter Sunday. Friends reunite and dance the evenings away at the local bars.

Of course, as in 2020, it will all be different again this year. Lockdown means most vacation homes will stay shuttered, as people are forced to stay put in the cities.

Expat Greeks who normally travel home for the holiday will remain abroad – many in lands which already celebrated Easter several weeks ago. Friends won’t meet up at the bars, and extended families won’t get together.

However, the challenges of this year can’t stop the Greeks from enjoying their biggest holiday, and the government and the Church of Greece have announced fewer restrictions this year than last year; worshippers are allowed to attend church services, but must keep distance (1 person/25m2 inside the church & 1 person/10m2 outside the church), and the Anastasi will take place earlier in the evening due to the 10 o’clock curfew. On Easter Sunday, gatherings may include two families with a total of nine people indoors, or two families with a total of twelve people outside (as summer weather is predicted for the entire weekend, there will be plenty of parties of twelve).

Of course, self-isolating is still recommended, and church services can also be followed via TV and radio broadcasts or online.

As proven by self-isolating Greeks last year, there are plenty of ways to keep traditions alive at home, and as long as spirits are high, it can be almost as good.

And Greek families living abroad can take comfort in the fact that once again, they can be celebrate just like their compatriots back home.

Whether you’re isolating in Greece or abroad, here are some ways to celebrate Easter at home:

Cooking at home

While roasting a whole lamb on your balcony might not be possible due to building regulations (and in any country other than Greece might cause troubled neighbors to call the police), that doesn’t mean you can’t cook up a delicious Easter feast.

Follow the links below to the recipes for some of the dishes that simply must have a place on your Easter table.

DIY Lampades

While worldwide postal delays makes it difficult for godparents to supply their godchildren with the customary decorated lampada (a type of ceremonial candle lit to celebrate the Resurrection), you can always make your own. Kids will love this crafts project, as you can make it very simple or as creative as their minds allow depending on their age.

Common craft supplies to use for your lampades could include ribbon, craft paper, buttons and beads. If you’re living in a country where stores are currently closed, fear not. You can find your basic materials (candles and glue) at the supermarket, and if you think you don’t own craft supplies, for this particular project, we can almost promise that you do. Here are some ideas for lampades you can make with items found in most homes:

Ballerina Lampada

Every person with Greek family and friends is likely to have a great source of lampada supplies hidden somewhere in a drawer of their house, in the form of old wedding bonbonieres. Often saved as mementos, you later forget which bonboniera came from which wedding, and they end up just taking up space, but here is your chance to put them to good use.

For example, tulle from a bonboniera makes for a pretty ballerina skirt. Simply wrap a piece of tulle around your candle for the tutu, secure it with glue, and wrap a pretty ribbon around the top. To complete your masterpiece, draw the top of the ballerina on your candle using wax pen or transfer it on by drawing it onto a piece of tissue paper with sharpie, wrapping the drawing around the candle, and securing it using a blow-dryer.

For this project, you need:

candles

glue gun with glue sticks or other strong glue

scissors

fabric

ribbon

wax pen or sharpies+tissue paper

Toy Lampada

If you have kids, you most likely have access to a supply of small plastic animals, legos and toy cars so vast no one will miss them if you poach a couple for this project.

Make it simple and attach your kid’s favorite animal to their lambada with a pretty ribbon, or glue on some legos or a cool car. You can also spray paint the toy first to make it more stylish.

For this project, you need:

candles

glue gun with glue sticks or other strong glue

ribbon or twine

plastic toys

optional: spray paint

Collage Lampada

Piles of old newspapers, magazines and books are a goldmine for the DIY’er. This is one of the simplest ways to make a personal lampada.

Use sections of the newspaper that speaks to each person in the family (don’t forget about the comic strips and the horoscopes), or your favorite parts of books (if you just happen to have doubles or a beach-beaten version) and glue the paper to your candle piece by piece, until it’s covered in a pretty collage. Remember not to cover the candle all the way up, if you are going to light it.

For the fashionista, pair cutouts from glossy magazines with things from another great source: nail art supplies, such as glitter, crystals and nail stickers.

For this project, you need:

candles

glue gun with glue sticks or other strong glue

scissors

newspapers, magazines or books

optional: strass crystals, glitter, stickers, nail polish

Fragrant Lampada

Combine some rustic twine with sprigs cut from the plants on your balcony or collected from outside. While fresh flowers will wilt quickly, green plants with firm leaves and bouquets of fresh herbs such as rosemary and thyme will hold up well, at least throughout the weekend.

To attach a small bouquet, fix it first with an elastic rubber band, then tie it to your candle with twine, and secure with glue.

For this project, you need:

candles

glue gun with glue sticks or other strong glue

scissors

ribbon or twine

fresh flowers or herbs from the balcony

Decorating eggs

Of course, like every year, you can dye your eggs using a kit from the supermarket, but why not use the extra time you have on your hands this year to experiment?

Last year, we made our own chemical-free egg dyes using vegetables and spices, resulting in a wide range of styles, from polka dot pastel to dark and speckled eggs (this is another great way to get kids away from screens for a bit). You can read all about that here.

Also try:

• Wrapping elastic rubber bands to your eggs before placing them in the dye, to create stripes.

• Attaching stickers in various shapes to your eggs before placing them in the dye, to create anything from star and heart patterns, to princess or dinosaur themed eggs.

• Pressing flowers against your eggs, and securing them in place before dipping them in the dye using a piece of stocking, tied tightly around the eggs, to make natural-looking and unique flower patterns.

• Drawing your own designs on the eggs after dyeing (or instead of dyeing)

For this project, you need:

hard-boiled eggs

egg dye (store-bought or homemade)

any of the following:

elastic rubber bands

stickers

flowers+stockings

sharpie

Watch the Epitaphios and Anastasi Ceremonies

While the holy services are to take place behind closed doors this year, with only the minimum number of clergy and chanters present, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece also announced that the services will all be broadcast on TV, radio, and online. The state-owned TV network ERT will be broadcasting the services live from the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens and from Saint George’s Cathedral in Istanbul.

You can follow the Athens Epitaphios, at 19:00-22:30 on Good Friday, and Anastasi, at 22:00-02:30 on Holy Saturday, here.

(Find a full program for the services that will be broadcast on the state-owned network in Greek here. All times are EEST – i.e. the time in London +2 hours).

While watching the services online will not be the same as attending, the fact that many Greeks are bound to tune in at the same time is creating a sense of community among people.

To make the Anastasi a bit more special, do as Greeks did last year: “light up” your balcony with candles at 23:30, and head outside to greet your neighbors from afar with the customary “Christos Anesti” (Christ has risen) at midnight!

 
 
 
 
 
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