I first posted this in April of 2010, when Orthodox Easter and Catholic Easter happened to fall on the same day just as they do this year. We just picked up our lamb from Bahnan's market today, and I realized this blog post is becoming a tradition. Happy Easter to all and to our Greek friends, Kahlo Pascha!
is Good Friday and in a Greek household that means we can’t eat dairy
or meat (that’s been going on for 40 days) and also today we can’t eat
oil, so on Good Fridays we usually end up surviving on things like plain
baked potatoes and peanut butter on crackers.
But today the Big
Eleni, who lives with us and is the best cook in the world, has all
sorts of “fasting” Good Friday food ready – Halvah, stuffed grape
leaves, rice-stuffed tomatoes, taramasalata (made from fish roe) and
some sort of artichoke/spinach/ hummus concoction. And boiled shrimp.
(And they now have a café where, according to local Greeks, you can get the only authentic gyros for miles around.)
Shopping at Bahnan’s is like a visit to the United Nations, but on Easter week it’s like several festivals rolled into one.
was a considerable line of people waiting to get into the refrigerated
back room to receive the lamb they had ordered and have it cut up to
their specifications. And this was in the morning, before church let
out. I imagine by afternoon the line was out the door.
last long in the refrigerated room, because of the cold and the
proximity of all those lamb corpses, some of which looked the size of a
small horse. (Our lamb was very small—I believe 27 pounds.)
had to escape before the butcher started sawing, I couldn't take it, but
this process is still easier than some early Easters in Nick’s Northern
Greek village when the adorable baby goats were tied to each house’s
front door knob and my offspring loved petting them. Then I had to drag
the children, (all three under age ten) out of town on Holy Saturday to
prevent them seeing the general bloodshed as the baby goats were
slaughtered and the blood ran in the street.
In the village on
Easter Sunday you see spits outside every house, each one tended by the
patriarch who is drinking homemade moonshine called Raki and having a good time. We sometimes do the lamb on the spit outside in Grafton, but not when Easter comes this early.
the way, this was a rare year when Orthodox Easter and everyone else’s
Easter are on the same day. Usually we Greeks are later because Orthodox
Easter has to be after Passover. It’s complicated.
bread with the red egg in the middle. And on Holy Thursday, as always,
we dyed dozens of eggs red for the Saturday-night egg-cracking duel
when you challenge everyone – saying “Christ is risen” “Indeed he is
risen”. Crack! And whoever’s egg comes out the winner gets the other
Tomorrow—Holy Saturday—we will all go to church very
early and without consuming as much as a drop of water beforehand. We
line up to take communion and then are free for the first time in seven
weeks to eat dairy (not meat. Not yet. But we are free to rush to the
Pancake House where we traditionally stuff ourselves with high-calorie
breakfast treats that have been forbidden for weeks.)
back to church again at midnight.—for the dramatic Midnight Mass on
Saturday night when the church is plunged into darkness and the priest
comes out at the exact stroke of midnight with a single candle and
announces ‘Christ is risen!” Then the flame passes from his candle to
everyone else’s and the church fills with light as we sing the
Resurrection hymn: “Christos anesti!” We try to keep our candles lit
as we drive home to break the Lenten fast by cracking eggs and eating
the delicate dill-and-egg-lemon soup made by the Big Eleni out of the
(Actually, she doesn’t put in the intestines
because she knows that our kids would never eat it. In fact one is a
vegetarian. And after my visit to the market today, I understand
I hope wherever you are celebrating Easter or
Passover -- in any language – you are enjoying warm spring weather.
Here in Massachusetts it has finally stopped raining and will be a
beautiful weekend. Kalo Pascha!
7 hours ago