More than just the opportunity for a post-Lenten blow-out, Easter is also a time of νόστος, homecoming, for exiles returning to celebrate with family, and for visitors lucky enough to be in Greece to join in. With the Skopelos paralia humming with visitors, Greek and otherwise, we thought we would reprise a golden oldie outlining events over the next few days, penned by Daphne in 2012.
The celebration of Easter in Greece is the most important date in the Greek calendar, for the religious and non-religious alike. On Thursday families, particularly children, paint the Easter eggs with a safe vegetable dye. Most eggs will be painted red to represent the blood of Christ. They are also decorated with leaf motifs and other designs to celebrate the arrival of spring. You can buy many dye colours in the supermarkets, mainly blue, green, red and yellow, and also motif stencils. You should boil the eggs and let them get cold before painting them.
On Thursday night at midnight Skopelitan women of all ages go to the four main churches to decorate the Epitaphio, the bier that represents the body of Jesus. Decorating the bier is almost like a competition and the work traditionally takes until the early hours of Friday morning.
On the night of Megali Paraskevi (Good Friday), the four main churches of Skopelos town, Christos (near the castle), Agios Jannis, Papameletiou and Pandelemona, will display the Epitaphio with the most attractive flower arrangements. The design and colour of these arrangements are always kept secret.
The first procession starts around 9pm, moving down through the town with the first Epitaphio, collecting the second group at the next church. They continue on together, singing and holding their candles, proceeding through the streets to the next church and then moving on again. To find the Christos church, walk along the harbour to the Platanos Jazz Bar, where steps lead up to the church. You will get to the church square in a few minutes. Bring a brown/yellow candle, not too big.
Everybody walks through the narrow streets with candles, singing old hymns until they reach the waterfront and then they walk back up to the churches again. Many people stay down and have a drink afterwards. Everybody dresses in their finest.
After the ceremony Skopelitans go home and eat the special Easter ‘mageritsa’ soup (see below). There are also tavernas open who will have prepared their own mageritsa.
Earlier on the Saturday, the Orthodox Patriarch of Greece will have broken the seal of the door of the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and emerged with the Holy Fire.
The flame is then flown by Olympic Airways, accompanied by high-ranking priests and government officials, to Athens airport, where it is met by an honour guard and taken to the small church of Agia Anargyroi in the Plaka district. From there, the light is distributed to churches all over Attika and throughout the rest of Greece.
As midnight approaches on the Saturday evening, people congregate at their churches, carrying unlit candles. You can go to any of the four churches in Skopelos before midnight to watch this most important celebration of the Greek Orthodox calendar. You are supposed to wear brighter colours this evening and most children will have a candle decorated with a toy, traditionally given to them by their godparents. At midnight, the priest open the church doors and announces the Resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ (“Christos anesti”) and shares the Holy Flame from Christ’s nativity cave in Jerusalem with the people outside, who confirm the declaration with “Alithos, Christos anesti” (“Truly, Christ has arisen”) as they share the flame. If you get the flame back to your home alight it is meant to bring good luck for the rest of the year.
After the late-night resurrection service of the Greek Orthodox Church, resurrection soup, or ‘mageritsa’, a soup or stew of sheep offal and vegetables, is served to the congregation or has been prepared earlier at home. On Easter Sunday, spit-roast lamb is the centrepiece of the table in family homes and at many restaurants. In the early morning, the spits will be turning in the courtyards and outside country homes (kalivis) across Skopelos and the rest of Greece.
Source : Easter in Greece
Some supermarkets and most butchers will be open all of Saturday and Sunday morning. Almost everything, including banks etc., will be closed on Monday.
We also have an early warning that this Sunday’s Skopelos Scramblers expedition will be heading for Panormos beach, where at least one restaurant will be roasting goat. We understand that the exercise-averse will be taking motorised transport to partake of the repast. More news on that when the carrier pigeon arrives from Scrambler HQ.