Saturday 6 January 2018

National Holidays and Religious Festivals in Halkidiki Greece

Easter in Halkidiki Greece
The Explanation why Catholic and Orthodox Easter often fall on different dates (highly simplified). Both, the Orthodox and the Catholic Church use the same moon-based calculation to determine the date of Easter. However the Christian Church refers to the Gregorian calendar while the Orthodox Church uses the ancient Julian calendar which is few days behind. This difference in combination with the calculation regarding the moon-circle can cause a difference of 0, 1 or 5 weeks.

Greek Easter Traditions
The Big Week

The Big Week is the Holy Week leading up to Easter. Visitors who spend this time of the year in Halkidiki will be rewarded with a very profound insight in local traditions and customs. Every day has its topic and the church holds daily services. Most Greeks start to take the fast serious and abstain from meat, dairy products until Christ's symbolic resurrection on Saturday night. The strict version of the lent also does not allow the consumption of alcoholic drinks as well as the use of oil in cooking on most days. Many Greeks follow these rules during the Holy week and nearly all honor this tradition at least up from Easter Friday.

The big Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday

The first 3 days of the Holy Week. The churches are open and people kiss the Icon of Christ.

The Big Thursday
The traditional Easter Bread 'Tsureki' is baked and boiled eggs are dyed red (Red as the symbol of Christ's blood and the color of life). Rezept of the Tsureki can be found below
The church is open all night. In many villages the women already prepare the Epitaph with flowers.

Good Friday

The Good Friday is a mournful day, taken very serious in Greece. The people honor the tradition of the Epitaph with piety and devoutness. In Halkidiki the procession starts in late Evening, led by the priests and the carriers of the Epitaph. The villagers follow the procession, usually with a little burning candle.

Many households don't switch on the TV or music on Good Friday. It's a day of silence. The play-back of music is not permitted during the procession.

Holy Saturday

On Saturday the people prepare the traditional soup 'Magiritsa' which is served after the midnight-ceremony to break the fast. The Holy Saturday is also the day the Eternal Flame, lightened in Jerusalem, is brought to Greece.
Before midnight everyone moves to the church-square, equipped with a long, white candle. Also rich decorated colorful candles can be found. The priests start the mass and shortly before midnight all lights are switched off. The atmosphere of the people's excitement is palpable. At midnight, the moment the priest calls out the 'Christos Anesti' the Easter has its absolute climax. Total joy and euphony is in the air, floating over the entire place. The Eternal Flame is passed from the priest to the people and from person to person. In the church start the Byzantine Chants. Family, friends and neighbors exchange Easter Wishes before moving on to enjoy the Magiritsa.

In Halkidiki it is also the moment the Clubs and Music-bars are open the gates to welcome the celebrating people.
Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday is celebrated with family or friends with focus on an opulent dinner: The Easter-Lamb. The lamp or goat is grilled, baked, cooked or prepared as traditional specialties such as Koukouretsi.

Easter Monday

Holiday. Many Greeks are gathering from all over the country, glad to enjoy the festive get-together within the family.

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