After celebrating Easter in Pontypridd, as if this wasn’t enough, Kath Couchman went, with husband Dave, to spend a few weeks in Elounda, Crete, arriving in time to celebrate Easter all over again.
The Greek Orthodox celebration of Easter fell this year on April 12th. It is surrounded with rituals and traditions which affect not only the church but the whole community. Kath has sent us pictures of her experience of Crete Easter celebrations.
Holy Week is when people take Lenten fasting most seriously. Fasting excludes meat, fish (though not seafood), eggs, oil and dairy products, although few people fast strictly for the whole 49 days of Lent. Women dye eggs red, symbolising the blood of Christ, and bake Easter biscuits (koulourakia) and cheese pies (kalitsounia) to eat on Saturday when the fasting ends. Church services are held daily through the week.
On Good Friday the bell rings out a death toll. It is a day of mourning.
During the 3 hour morning service the cross is brought in to take its place at the centre of the church and it is decorated with wreaths made by local people. The service includes 12 gospel readings, the lighting of 12 candles, the renouncing of sins and anointing as a sign of forgiveness. The body of Christ is removed from the cross and placed into an ‘Epitaphos’ or coffin.
After the evening service is a quiet procession through the streets, carrying the epitaph, or coffin. The congregation follow, dressed in black. In Elounda it was too windy to process up the hill to meet the procession from a neighbouring church as planned. Instead the epitaph was carried three times around the church.
On Easter Saturday children spend the day preparing a bonfire and making an effigy of Judas, to burn after the midnight service. People gather from 11pm for the culmination of the Easter celebrations. Lights are turned out at 11.45 and the Holy flame is lit at midnight. Brought from Jerusalem, it signifies the lighting up of the church and the world.
On Easter Sunday after worship the streets are filled with the smell of lamb roasting on a spit. If neighbours are hosting an Easter party outside, you are likely to be invited!