Easter to Greeks is considered to be the most important holiday of all the Greek traditional holidays. With so many customs, traditions and a direct tie to specific foods. Many Greeks will be counting down the days until Pascha (Easter) and looking forward to spending this special feast with their family and friends. First and foremost Easter is a journey, and for many it is taken quite seriously. The faithful will be commemorating Jesus’s death on the cross for our sins, by attending church frequently. Easter Sunday is a celebration of the miracle of Jesus’s resurrection and the promise of an afterlife. Orthodox Easter follows the Julian calendar, which most often is on another date then that of the Western Easter, and always after Passover.
Leading up to Easter the faithful will participate in Great Lent. Lent lasts 40 days, until Palm Sunday and then another week until Easter Sunday. This includes a strict fast, prayer and almsgiving. With that said, those who follow the fast will be consuming only certain foods during this period. No dairy and no meat is allowed, instead foods such as vegetables, grains and seafood to name a few. Overall Lent is about sacrificing the things you want. For many this will be a challenging time, which is to be expected however the end reward will be worth it. Thankfully the food aspect of lent has come a long way, from the days of just the bare basics. The options for these days are endless and the recipes available are satisfying.
Great Lent begins with a traditional flat bread called Lagana on Kathera Deftera (Clean Monday). This is served along with Greek olives and taramosalata (carp roe spread). The bread is shaped into a large oval and sprinkled with sesame seeds, which can also be enjoyed with other Lenten foods. As mentioned above seafood is allowed, such as shrimp, calamari and octopus. A great substitute to meat and fish, add a side of rice, potatoes and salad and you have a wonderful meal. When you’re in the mood for something sweet, pasteli (sesame seed bars) halva (tahini dessert) and moustokouloura (grape must cookies) are all wonderful treats. Bottom line, when it comes to fasting for Great Lent the selection of foods have come a long way and ultimately it’s just a mindset.