In Eastern Christianity, the spiritual preparation for Easter (Pascha) begins with the Great Lent, (while in the west, Easter marks the end of Lent).
The Great Lent starts on Clean Monday and lasts for forty days. The Saturday and Sunday before Easter are called Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday, followed by the Holy Week, and finally, Easter.
The Easter celebration begins at the stroke of midnight, on Holy Saturday night. Placing the Divine Liturgy at midnight ensures that no other liturgy comes earlier in the morning.
The Divine Liturgy is considered the most significant ancient Christian service, not so much for its phrasing and words as for its meaning. For Eastern Christianity, Easter is extolled as the “Feast of Feasts.”
The week which begins on Easter Sunday is called Bright Week, during which, there is no fasting. The post-eastern period lasts 39 days. Pentecost Sunday is the fiftieth day from the beginning of Easter.
Easter is by far the holiest of Greek holidays, but it is also the most joyous, a celebration of spring, of rebirth in its literal as well as figurative sense. As Greeks leave the cities in droves to spend Easter in the countryside, food is central to all festivities.
The Easter table is a reflection of tradition combined with the seasonality of Greek cuisine. The ingredients, the seasonings, and the dishes might differ from place to place, there is always one rule surely followed: nothing must be wasted.
The most typical dishes are whole lambs on a spit, slowly roasting; red-dyed eggs; braided sweet breads (tsoureki); Easter soup (magiritsa) and grilled tripe roll (kokoretsi).
Magiritsa is usually eaten during the early hours of Sunday morning, after the midnight service of Resurrection together with red-dyed eggs.
On Easter Sunday morning, the process of roasting a whole lamb on a spit along with the kokoretsi begins. It usually takes 6 to 8 hours for the lamb to roast. People enjoy themselves drinking ouzo or tsipouro and tasting various meze, until the lamb is ready.
EASTER ON GREEK ISLANDS
There is a plethora of Easter customs and traditions all over the country, related to the most important religious celebration of Orthodox Christians.
Greek islands are a special destination not only for their stunning beauty but also for their uniqueness in celebrating Easter the traditional Greek way.
On the island of Tinos, in western Cyclades, on Good Friday the Holy Sepulchers of both Orthodox and Catholic churches gather at the port, where they join forces in chanting hymns before each Holy Sepulcher follows its own itinerary through the neighborhoods.
The bier of Aghios Nikolaos –patron Saint of sailors- is taken into the water at the beach, creating a sublime atmosphere.
On Amorgos -the easternmost of the Cycladic Islands- the houses and streets are whitewashed, marking the beginning of the Holy Week and reflecting the festive atmosphere of the season. The women of Amorgos knead bread and decorate it with red eggs, while on Good Friday afternoon, they treat local people and visitors to bread, olives and Lenten confectionery.
On Skiathos, all the services are held according to the monastic rule of Mount Athos. The bells toll in funereal tones during the entire Holy Week and the Vespers service of Good Friday starts at 4am on Saturday morning.
In the village of Marpissa on the island of Paros, unique customs dating back to 1973 are revived on Good Friday evening.