While Easter celebrations can be somewhat similar around the world, Easter time on Crete and indeed on the whole of mainland Greece, is significantly different from other Western European nations.
This is mainly due to the fact the Greeks use a modified version of the Julian calender instead of the Gregorian calender. In 2014 Easter in Greece falls at the same time as it does in the rest of Europe. Last year however, Greece celebrated Easter as week later than its European counterparts, as it did in 2009 and 2012.
In short, if you want to experience Easter with a difference this year, heading to the sunshine island of Crete will open your eyes to alternative Easter traditions.
Good Friday on Crete
Good Friday on Crete is a sombre affair which marks the death of Jesus Christ. Church services are held throughout the day. The women and girls decorate the church Epitaphios (the Tomb of Christ) with fresh flowers. The result is a sweet smelling and truly beautiful sight. A cloth with the image of Christ is placed at the centre of the Epitaphios. In the evening there is a candle-lit procession as the Epitaphios is carried from the church to the cemetery and then back to the church. Amid mournful singing and peals of church bells, people kiss the cloth which bears Christ’s image.
On the stroke of midnight during the Saturday night service the church is plunged into darkness before the priest comes forward with a solitary lit candle. The candle has been lit from an ‘un-extinguished’ flame that has travelled very carefully all the way to Crete from Jerusalem. The priest then lights the candles of the front row of the congregation and utters the words “Christo Anesti”, which means Christ is risen. Soon the whole of the church is illuminated by a magical candle light as every one lights their candles from the next person. Fireworks are set off outside and there is much handshaking and kissing as the people of Crete bid each other a happy Easter. The fast which many have endured is now over as a party begins to take shape.
Following the morning service to commemorate the rising of Jesus from the dead, families prepare for some special family time. To celebrate the end of fast, the people of Crete feast on spit roast lamb. The lamb is turned outside over a fire for anything up to six hours. This is a job for the men and the air on Crete on Easter Sunday is filled with the gorgeous mouth-watering aromas of spit roast lamb cooking with traditional herbs. Much wine will be downed and sweet biscuits eaten on this joyful family occasion.
In case you’re lucky enough to be there, Kalo Pasha means happy Easter in Greek.