Thursday, 2 April 2009

Greek Orthodox Easter

Greek Easter, the country's most important religious festival, arrives accompanied by the smells of spring, the rebirth of nature and the flower-carpeted ground.

Many of the traditions that bond the generations together occur during the Easter feast. Easter is the most sacred and celebrated of all of the Greek holidays. It begins with a 40-day fast, of the 40 days, one week is chosen for the complete fast, during that time only natural foods are eaten. No meats, dairy, fish, poultry or dishes that are prepared with these foods can be eaten. Shellfish can be eaten, however three days a week are meatless days during the remaining weeks of the fast. During Holy Week complete fasting is to take place. Palm Sunday, which is the first day of the Holy Week, is a day when only fish and fish courses are served.

On Saturday before Easter, the food that will be served on Easter Sunday is taken to the church and blessed by the priest.

The red eggs for just after the Resurrection and the traditional Resurrection soup, "mageritsa," will be the wife's first concern, and her preparations will begin early in the Holy Week.

That preparation means the cleaning and decoration of the house, the baking of the Easter biscuits and bread and the dyeing of the eggs.

During Holy Week the churches are full each evening as the people follow, once more the Passion of Our Lord. Then at midnight on the Saturday the bells ring out joyfully: the faithful, candles lit, can celebrate the Resurrection.

The meal afterwards consists of the "mageritsa," the red eggs are knocked and the traditional phrase "Christ is risen" will be heard all around the table.

On Easter Sunday, spit-roast lamb is the centerpiece of the table. In the early morning the spits will be turning in the courtyards and under the shady trees as the lamb "kokoretsi" is slowly cooked, and the aroma of the roasting lamb wafts from one end of Greece to the other.

I have brought together for you some of the most delicious recipes of Greek Easter. Serve the dishes with plenty of green salads particularly lettuce, which in Greece is in season at Eater, lots of good red wine or retsina.

If you get a chance to celebrate Easter in Greece, do not pass it up; it will mean song, dance and "Kefl" around the fire pit as the spit slowly revolves cooking the lamb.

By Judy McCann

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