For Greek Orthodox Christians, Easter is considered the most important and meaningful holiday of the year. Preparations for Easter begin 48 days before the actual holiday, allowing the faithful a period of fasting and contemplation to ready themselves for the Holy Resurrection. Lent, which lasts for 40 days, begins on Clean Monday (Greek: Kathara Deutera), seven weeks before Easter. Immediately after Lent ends, Holy Week begins with the Saturday of Lazarus, the day Orthodox Christians celebrate Christ's miraculous resuscitation of his friend Lazarus, who had been dead for four days. The Holy Week liturgical services culminate in a commemoration of Christ's Last Supper of the Passover meal, His Death on the Cross, burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Many people are aware that Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter often on a different day than Western Christians. This is because the Orthodox Church fathers declared Easter to fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the spring equinox. Though this formula for calculating the date of Easter is the same for both Eastern and Western Christian churches, the Orthodox traditionally follow the older Julian Calendar, while the Western Christians schedule their Easter according to the Gregorian Calendar. It is also important for Orthodox Easter to fall after the Jewish holiday of Passover, since Christ celebrated Passover in Jerusalem at his Last Supper.
In Greece and in Greek-American communities in America, Easter traditions are varied and unique. At the center of the celebrations, there is always copious amounts of food. The most popular foods on a Greek Easter table are roast lamb (often cooked on a spit), magiritsa (a kind of soup made from lamb offal), braided sweet bread (tsoureki), and grilled tripe (kokoretsi). One of the most beloved Easter traditions is the dying of red eggs. The women in a family will hard boil eggs and dye them a deep red color. The egg is a symbol of new life, while the red symbolizes the blood of Christ. On Easter Sunday, each family member receives a red egg to 'compete' with. The eggs are hit together, either on the small end (the nose) or the large end (the behind), and whoever is left with his or her egg intact is the winner.
For more information on different Easter traditions throughout Greece, please visit: http://www.greeknewsagenda.gr/2011/04/special-issue-easter-in-greece.html.
Have a Happy and Blessed Pascha!
Sources: Greek News Agenda, http://www.factmonster.com/spot/easter1.html,