Monday, March 2, 2009

A feast like no other!

These pictures are all from last year's great Greek Easter feast!

For us Greeks, the biggest time of the year is not Christmas, even though it's still a huge celebration - it's Easter. Greek Orthodox Easter this year is on April 19th and what marks this festive and happy occasion is - FOOD! Yes, we Greeks love our food, and Easter is a time to celebrate that love of food. The warm smell of my grandmother's bread and tsoureki, my mother-in-law's koulouria (Greek cookies), and of course... the lamb... oh, the lamb...

Easter is the greatest time of year for food, feasting and celebrating family. Eater time, from carnival time (which is huge in Patras, my dad's hometown) right through Holy Week is a special season in Greece.

The Carnival (Apokria) season starts around Mardi Gras time and ends on Sunday with the burning of the Carnival King - setting fire to an enormous paper maché effigy of Judas. Fireworks and feasting continue through the night and the next day (today, Monday March 2nd) is called Kathara Deftera, aka Clean Monday or Ash Monday.Rice, beef, salads, yeastless bread and taramosalata are some of the foods that are enjoyed today.

Holy Week is the most important week - on Holy Thursday the eggs are dyed bright red; symbolic of Easter in Greece. On Good Friday, flags at homes and government buildings are flown at half mast. We all go to Church. Holy Saturday, we attend midnight mass and at midnight, as we are all standing outside our church with our lit candles, we kiss and say XRISTOS ANESTI! Christ is Risen! It's a very special time and we go home in anticipation of Easter Sunday, the day we feast and eat and eat... all... day.... long.

It starts with the bright red eggs - and the cracking of the eggs - each person takes an egg and challenges someone else and whoever has the egg that lasts the longest without cracking has good luck for the rest of the year! The rest of the day is spent eating, and listening to music, and just enjoying the day. Avgolemono soup -Greek chicken rice soup - is enjoyed, along with cheeses, tsoureki, potatoes, salads, pasta dishes, and of course, the lambs roasting over charcoal fire... and while you're waiting for it to be ready, you just go up to it and pick off some meat and eat... mmm... soooooo good!

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