Easter in Greek is known as ‘Pascha’, which is translated to the Hebrew word for ‘Passover’. Pascha is one of the biggest holidays for the Greek populace, especially in Greece and Cyprus.
Senior Andrea Christoforou said, “Easter in Cyprus is a big deal, and it is probably the most important season of the year Everyone gathers to celebrate this holiday. It brings friends and families together.”
Greeks celebrate Easter with a variety of traditions. Junior Tommy Panos said, “My family celebrates an Eastern European tradition where you wear a red and white colored bracelet called the ‘Marti’ from the start of March until the day of Easter.”
One of the main traditions is the dyeing of eggs to the color red. The egg is a symbol of the tomb Jesus Christ arose from after he was crucified. The eggs are dyed red to represent life, victory, and the blood of Jesus Christ.
On Easter Sunday families gather and play a game called ‘Tsougrisma’ with the red eggs. Tsougrisma is when people pick out a red egg and tap their opponents egg lightly, for the goal of the game is to crack the opponent’s egg. The person who cracks the eggs of all of their opponents with the same side of their egg wins the game, and it is said he or she will have good luck during the year. Junior Markos Christoforou said, “Dyeing eggs is always a family experience in Cyprus. The entire house is filled with family members, and the egg dying and cracking experience is truly a great time during Easter.”
There are many more traditions than Tsougrisma and Marti, especially in the Greek Islands. In the Greek Island of Corfu, natives of the island partake in the ‘Pot Throwing’ tradition by throwing pots out of their windows to get rid of death and evil spirits.
On the Greek Island of Chios, many take part their ‘Rocket-War’ custom. Two rival churches in Chios fire tens of thousands of homemade fireworks across the island. The homemade fireworks that are used are prepared several months prior to Easter. The goal of this tradition is to hit the other church’s bell tower. This tradition has been going on since the Ottoman Era and still stands strong today.
The Greek City Kalamata has its own tradition using a Saitas, which is a firework that makes a very loud noise. This festivity dates to Greece’s revolutionary fights against Turkey during the 1820s. The point of the Saitas was to startle the Turkish army’s horses in order to win the revolutionary war. On Easter, a group of men dress as traditional Greeks and detonate the Saitas while holding it in their hands.
Eastern Orthodox Easter is normally later than the American Easter; in fact, Eastern Orthodox Easter is five weeks after Western Easter this year. The Eastern Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar, while the rest of Christianity follows the Gregorian calendar. The Julian Calendar is 13 days behind the Gregorian Calendar. According to the Greek USA Reporter, the Christian Orthodox Church follows the First Ecumenical Council’s rule that Easter must occur after the Jewish Passover, but Western Christianity does not follow this rule.
Therefore, the Western Easter takes place before or during the Jewish Passover and the Eastern Easter occurs after the Jewish Passover. Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Israel, Ethiopia, Romania, Ukraine, and many more countries celebrate Eastern Orthodox Easter.
Many students in Elk Grove celebrate Eastern Easter. Freshman Dino Tsiampas said “I really enjoy being with my family because this is the most festive Greek holiday of the year”. Senior Andrea Christoforou said, “I look forward to going to church at night and participating in the festivities the church provides.”