Discover the Rich Traditions of Greek Easter | A Guide to Greek Easter

Discover the Rich Traditions of Greek Easter | A Guide to Greek Easter

Apr 12, 2023

Easter for the Greek people holds deep cultural and religious importance for all Greeks. Easter is the most important period of the orthodox calendar. Known as Pascha is Greece, easter marked by a series of traditions and customs that have been observed for centuries. The centrepiece of Greek Easter is a feast featuring succulent lamb dishes and other traditional foods. 

The Greek Orthodox Church plays a significant role in Easter celebrations. Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter Sunday, is marked by a series of religious services and ceremonies. Throughout the holiday, there are varisous customs that are done by the Greek people; from colorful egg dyeing, easter biscuits called Koulourakia, to lively street processions.

As the Greek Orthodox calendar differs to other christian calendars, Greek Orthodox easter usually falls on different dates to the Catholic easter. Even though it is a religious celebration the Greeks celebrate the holiday with lost of food while drinking.

Rich Traditions of Greek Easter

In Greece, Easter is celebrated according to the Eastern Orthodox Church calendar. The date of Easter is calculated based on the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

Holy Week

The week leading up to Easter Sunday, known as Holy Week, is a significant time for Christians. It begins with Palm Sunday and ends on Holy Saturday, marking the final week of Lent. The Orthodox Church refers to this period as "Holy" due to the pivotal events that occurred during Jesus Christ's suffering.

As part of their preparation for the celebration of Jesus Christ's Resurrection, believers observe specific practices during Holy Week. One of these practices is fasting from meat and animal products, which is a way to demonstrate reverence and devotion.

Nowadays, feasting is not strictly followed -or even followed at all- by most people for the whole duration of Lent, but only during Holy Week. 

During Holy week, there are church services each night with the main services being from Thursday night. Holy Thursday celebrates the last supper, and also marks the beginning of the preparations for Jesus Christ's resurrection.

As part of the Greek culture and tradition, families make Easter biscuits known as "koulourakia" in Greek, and they also dye hard-boiled eggs red. Eggs have been a symbol of new life since ancient times, while the color red symbolises the blood of Christ.

In modern times, families have expanded upon this tradition by dyeing eggs in a variety of colors, and children often take on the task of decorating them with stickers and other materials. 

Following the evening mass on Holy Thursday, some individuals undertake the decoration of the Tomb of Christ (epitaph) with flowers of varying colours and sizes. This preparation ensures that the epitaph is ready to hold the image of Christ's body on the morning of Holy Friday, when he is taken down from the Cross.

Good Friday

Holy Friday (Good Friday) is a somber day that includes both morning and evening masses. During the morning mass, the body of Christ is taken down from the Cross, covered with a white sheet, and placed in the Bier, which represents Jesus' tomb. This ritual is followed by people kneeling before the empty cross and showing their reverence by kissing it.

In the evening, the majority of the religious ceremony takes place outside the church, a unique occurrence for an Orthodox sacramental rite. According to tradition, four men carry an ornate epitaph out of the church, accompanied by young girls carrying baskets of rose petals.

These girls, called "Myrrhofores," which means "the girls or ladies who bring the holy oil," typically wear white dresses. The priest leads the procession, and the congregation follows, holding candles as a symbol of their sorrow for Christ's death.

The procession concludes at the church, where the group forms a circle and holds the Bier of Jesus Christ on their shoulders before the church entrance, allowing every believer to pass under it and receive its blessing.

On some Greek islands, such as Hydra and Tinos, easter traditions and customs such as the Bier of Christ being taken to the sea, where it blesses the water and protects local seafarers.

Midnight Mass

The last day of Lent, Holy Saturday, is full of preparation for the midnight feast. Magiritsa, a traditional soup, is a must-have for the occasion. Just before midnight, people gather at the church, holding their Easter candles, or 'lambades,'

Just before midnight, the lights go out in the church and the streets, symbolising Jesus' descent into the kingdom of death. The priest proclaims 'Christos Anesti,' which means Christ Has Risen. At this point, the priests lambade has been lit, to symbolise the resurrection. From this one candle, everyones candle is lit. Its a beautiful sight to see the lighting of each candle spread across the crowd. At the same point fireworks are let off which is a common tradition, with the banging of the fireworks heard everywhere throughout Greece.


The candle is then taken home, and a cross is drawn above the entrance with its flame for protection against evil. The flame is kept burning in a traditional 'kandili' until the following Easter. Next, the feast begins! People play 'tsougrisma,' a game where they hit each other's red eggs until one cracks, with the person with the strongest egg said to have good luck for the year. As the saying goes, "You close your mouth with an egg when Lent starts and open it with an egg when it finishes."

Magiritsa, the traditional Easter soup, is typically eaten after church on Saturday night. Those with energy party until the next day. On Easter Sunday, family and friends gather for a large meal consisting of roasted lamb, various salads, and mezedakia. 

Not only throughout Greece, but all of the Orthodox christians around the world will be celebrating easter with similar customs and traditions and most importantly celebrating the resurection and indulge in lots of food. 

Greek easter and public holidays

A word of warning, if you plan to visit Greece during the easter holiday, be prepared for most things to be closed during the easter break as most Greeks will leave the major cities and head to their family village to celebrate. This is probably one of the biggest Greek easter traditions.

As the orthodox and Catholic easter usually fall on different dates its best to check the dates so you do not arrive to an empty Athens! 

How to experience Greek Easter

If you are wanting to celebrate Greek Easter perhaps visit the island of Corfu. They have a very special tradition of throwing red vases from balconies to celebrate the easter. Its a very unique celebreation and one worth seeing! Or for a spectacular view Santorini is another island to visit during the easter celebrations.


Greek Easter Sayings

Kalo Pascha: Happy Easter. This is said after midnight mass on Saturday

Christos Anesti: Christ has rise. This is said at midnight on Saturday / Sunday morning 

Kali Anastasi: Happy resurrection / have a good celebration, and is said after Saturday nights midnight mass

Traditional Greek Easter food

Red Eggs: These a hard boiled eggs which are dipped in red dye, and sometimes other bright colours such as blue, yellow and orange. Cracking the red eggs is a easter tradition that is done after Saturday midnight mass and signify the celebration of the resurrection.


Easter Bread: Easter bread or Tsoureki  symbolises the Resurrection of Christ and rebirth

Lamb: Lamb is the centre piece of the easter lunch. It is slowly roasted on a spit. Either lamb or goat is served.

Koulouria: A butter-based pastry and is usually made in to 3 specific shapes

Magiritsa: A staple of the easter Sunday feast this soup is made of lamb intestine and offal

Kokoretsi: A greek sausage that is made from lamb offal and lamb intestines.

Lazarakia bread: They symbolise the resurrection of Lazarus and are shaped like a little man wrapped in a shroud