Why Easter is Greek to Me: Xristos Anesti!

We don’t do bunnies. We don’t do chocolate. We don’t do pastels. Those are just some of the things that non-Greeks may not know about Greek Easter.

Once every few years, Greek Easter falls the same week as “American Easter,” as it was called when I was growing up.

In order for “Greek Easter” to be celebrated the same week as “American Easter,” Passover has to have been celebrated already. We Greeks don’t do Easter until after Passover, because how can you have Easter BEFORE Passover. Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, after all. Unless it is one of the years when the two holidays align. Like this year.

Here are some of the things that non-Greeks may not know about Greek Easter: We don’t do bunnies. We don’t do chocolate. We don’t do pastels.

We do lamb, sweet cookies, and deep red. The lamb is roasted and not chocolate, the sweet cookies are called Koulorakia and are twisted like a braid, and our Easter eggs are dyed one color only: blood red. There is no Easter Egg hunt. There is a game in which you crack your red egg against someone else’s red egg hoping to have the strongest egg, which would indicate you getting a lot of good luck.

Holy Week, for a Greek Orthodox, means you clear your calendar, you don’t make plans for that week at all because you will be in church every day, and you fast. Last year, in addition to not eating red meat and dairy before communion, my family also gave up sodas for the 40-day Lenten period.

During one particularly stressful moment, there were many phone calls amongst our kids as to whether or not a canned drink called TING, made with grapefruit juice and carbonated water was, in fact, a soda and not a juice, which our then 10-year-old decided it was, so we had a Ting-less Lent.

No matter where I find my self in the world I never miss Easter, or as we call it, Pascha. I have celebrated in Paris, London, New York City, Los Angeles, and in Salinas, California at a small humble church that was pure and simple.

When we were kids, our parents would take us, and now as parents ourselves we take our children to many of the Holy Week services including the Good Friday service where you mourn the death of Jesus by walking up to the Epitaphio, which reperesents the dead body of Christ, make your cross, kiss the Epitaphio, and marvel at how it was decorated with a thousand glorious flowers, rose petals and smells like incense.

Some very pious people will crawl under the Epitaphio. I have always been so moved to see this. There is no self- consciousness in this utter act of faith. There is no embarrassment to show symbolic sorrow at the death of our Saviour.

At a certain point in the Good Friday service, the Epitaphio is carried outside by the deacons of the church, as if they are pall bearers, followed by worshippers carrying lit candles protected from dripping on your clothes and on others by having a red plastic cup that sits below the flame to catch the wax drippings. Every Greek person knows all too well the smell of burning hair.

One time, in London, I smelled something and turned to look at where the smell might be coming from, only to be horrified that it was coming form me and my head was on fire. But I digress.

It is somber and quiet as we follow the Epitaphio, in candlelight, from the altar to the outdoors, in order for it to circle the church before it returns back to the altar. We sing beautiful lamentations that make your heart break with their pure expression of sadness and hope.

One of my favorite services during Easter is Holy Unction. This happens on the Wednesday of Holy Week. Holy Unction is a sacrament. It is for healing of our ills, physical and spiritual. It is preparing us for confession and communion. This sacrament has always been so humbling to me.

When you approach the priest for Holy Unction, you bow your head and as he says a prayer and asks you your Christian name, he takes a swab of blessed oil and makes the sign of the cross on your forehead, cheeks, chin, backs of your hands and palms. It is a powerful reminder of how, with faith, we can be healed in many ways.

The holy oil is then carefully dabbed with cotton balls provided by the church so you don’t leave there looking as if you’re ready to fry chicken with your face, and before you exit the church, you leave your cotton balls in a basket being held by altar boys, so as not to dispose of the holy oil in a less than holy place. The church burns the used cotton balls.

There have been times when I have left church with my cotton ball and have panicked when I am driving away. At home I take care of it. Imagine a grown woman burning cotton balls in her sink. But that is what I do.

Midnight Mass on Saturday night, going into Sunday morning is the Anastasi service. We will arrive at church at around 11 p.m., when it starts, and listen to the chanter as he chants in preparation for the service. My kids, dressed in their suits and having been awakened from a deep sleep to come to church, groggily sit and wait holding their candles with red cup wax catchers.

As the service progresses, the moment we have all been waiting for approaches. All the lights in the church are turned off. It is pitch black It is dead quiet. The priest takes one candle and lights his one candle from the one remaining lit altar candle, which represents the light of Christ’s love ( I believe).

From this one candle, the priest approaches the congregation and using his one candle he shares his light with a few people in the front pews. They in turn share their light with the people next to them and behind them. In quiet solemnity, we wait until the entire church is lit with only the light of candles, the light that has been created by one small flame has now created a room of shared light.

And at a moment that can only be described as glorious, the priest cries out, “Xristos Anesti!” “Christ is Risen!” We respond with “Alithos Anesti!” “Truly, He is Risen!” We sing our glorious Xristos Anesti song with the choir. That moment, which happens about an hour, to an hour and half into the service and seems as if the service is over, actually marks the beginning of the service. The service then continues for another hour and a half.

When I was a kid, after the service was over, we would go to the Anastasi Dinner that the church would throw in the church hall, where we would break our fast, drink Cokes at 2:30 in the morning, dance to a raucous Greek band and not go home until our stomachs were full of lamb, eggs, Koulouraki, and we saw the sun rise. Or was it the Son rise?

But usually now, after Midnight Mass, we drive home with our still-lit candles. I always love seeing the looks on peoples faces as they pull up to our car seeing a family with lit candles calmly moving at 65 m.p.h. down the highway. When we get home, we crack eggs, eat cookies, drink hot chocolate (so not Greek) and I burn a cross into our doorways with the carbon from the candle smoke to bless our house for the year.

There have been many times when painters touching up the house have wondered why there was this strange black cross burned into our doorways. The next day is usually followed by a late sleep in, then getting up and doing the same thing you just did but in the daytime at the Easter Picnic, usually held at a local park.

I have to say, the Greeks know how to do Easter. Make no mistake. This is the most important holiday in our church. It is a beautiful week. I haven’t even begun to touch on what the week is really like. This is a sampling of a sampling of what it is like. It is so much more deep, so much richer than I have written here.

But one thing is clear. It is a powerful, beautiful, mysterious, humbling, healing and moving week. It is filled with tradition and ritual. It is about renewal and faith. And even though it is still too early to say, Xristos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

About

Rita Wilson Actress Rita Wilson, whose mother and father both were born in Greece, is widely credited with landing Nia Vardalos a movie deal for "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Wilson and her actor husband Tom Hanks had their own "Big Fat Greek Wedding" in 1988. They have two children.
  • Peter Knapp

    JacobJozevz: What in the world was that? This is supposed to be a comment on Ms. Wilson’s personal reflections, not a blog hijacking. Get your own blog!Ms. Wilson: thank you, that was a pleasure to read. You well emphasized the personal meaning of this tradition in your faith. I have come to appreciate the meaning and value of ritual more as I get older. Thank you for sharing.

  • Bill L

    That is a wonderful tradition and seems very meaningfull! Even though I like chocolate I like the lack of bunnies and such trappings, it brings more meaning to Easter.

  • Mike

    Alithos Anesti. More properly put, the Orthodox know how to do Easter, but it’s not uncommon for the Greeks to forget that anyone is Orthodox other than themselves. :-)A couple of points to add: The actual Paschal fast is a vegan fast (shellfish is allowed, go figure) that runs all during Lent. It’s great to fast Holy Week, even better to hold the fast all during Lent. The Church, however, is firm in its teaching (based on the Prodigal Son parable) that all participate in the Pascal Feast equally, regardless of how long (or not!) they have fasted.This year we spent Pascha in a Greek Orthodox Church in Calcutta, India. 15 years ago there were no Orthodox in Calcutta at all, just a falling-apart Church that had been shuttered for 25 years after the Greeks followed the British out of India. A Greek nun and monk with a heart for missions reopened the Church in 1992, and started chanting services by themselves. Now they have a community of 200 convert Orthodox of Indian descent, 16 churches open in West Bengal, an orphanage with 160 girls, and other social service centers. I should add that I can’t chant Christos Anesti in Bengali, but it sounds great. :-)Like you, I enjoy the pious crawling under the funeral bier, but my favorite part is when the children take communion — they come to services with their pillows, blankets, teddy bears, and in their PJ’s, and fall asleep whenever and wherever they fall. Their parents wake them for Communion, and you get to see this line of barely functioning kidlets waiting patiently in their bare feet, a visual of “Suffer not the children to come to Me.”Mike

  • dinty

    Sounds boring.

  • Suzanne

    Thank you Ms. Wilson, for sharing your thoughts on Greek Easter. I never knew that the Greek Orthodox church celebrated Easter at a different time…but it makes sense when you said that about not celebrating Easter before Passover. Jesus came to be the perfect Passover Lamb, and His sacrifice once and for all-time covered the sins of the whole world, so no longer would there be any need of animal sacrifices, which were only a temporary solution to our sin problem.

  • Barbara

    Extremely interesting, thank you for sharing. Like spring itself, it is a breath of fresh air to read (and experience)something so good and filled with hope for a change.

  • Seattle

    Guys come on, you really think they could come close and harm the messiah ? he cured the blind, and brought back ppl from the dead. how could you think humans could crusify and torture him ?

  • WPC09

    Seattle, Just because one Who came from God can perform miraculous acts does not mean that He will choose to exercise that power under all circumstances. Jesus chose to accept suffering to teach us that He had experienced all that we experience and that He triumphed over it. Therefore, so can we. I would wager that Seattle is a Muslim. If so, then you have misunderstood one Qur’anic verse by adopting a prosaic and material interpretation disseminated by your imams. The Qur’an teaches that no human opposition could destroy or harm the reality of Jesus, which was of God and of the spirit. The Qur’an is actually saying that crucifixion could not truly harm Him, even though His body was upon the cross. Note that some eminent Islamic philosophers understood the Qur’an this way, not in the literalist way modern Sunnis do. Whenever a Muslim argues that Jesus was never crucified, he loses virtually every Christian he speaks to.

  • Patty

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful Easter traditions with us! I love Easter, the best of all the Christian holy days.

  • steve

    Christos anesti, My favorite part of Holy Week is the tuesday night service in which the hymn of Kassiani is sung. My mother had a wonderful singing voice and she particularly loved this service and would take me to see it when I was young. The hymn is a profound meditation on sin, despair, forgiveness and reconciliation. It takes as its theme the powerful image of the prostitute who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and her hair. The music and the words are sublime. I have long since realized that Easter is my favorite holiday of the year, and the fact that Orthodox Easter usually takes place after western Easter makes it all the sweeter. We do not have to worry about easter bunnies, parades and all of the other commercial components of Easter as it is celebrated in the US. Finally, in the Orthodox church we do not speculate on how any one else will get to heaven, but rather focus on how we will live and believe. God may well choose for his own purposes to accept into heaven the righteous and merciful whether they are Christians or not. It is not for us to say. Our duty is to be as loving, faithful and hopeful as we are capable, and encourage others to do the same.

  • Bohdan Szejner, Kraków, Poland

    Rita Wilson is not a theologian as I am, so she probably can learn something from me. It is not only the Greeks that “don’t do Easter until Passover,” the Catholics also do! Why? Because we both know that the earthly Easter comes before the Heavenly Passover! (Lk 22:16)! First, to be clear, we do not know with absolute certainty on which year Jesus died, except that He most likely died on Friday the 14th, the year of Nisan (that is 30 A.D.). I firmly believe that this is the right date because it is historically supported by the Talmud. Matthew 26:17 says that the Disciples started the preparatives for Mazzoth (The Feast of the Unleavened Bread (Ex on the first day of the Mazzoth week. The feasts of Mazzoth and the Firstborn Lamb Eating (Ex 4:15; 12:43; 13:11-16) were combined since antiquity, and the lamb was eaten toward the end of the week. But Jesus, knowing that He would be in Heaven before the Jewish lamb was eaten (Jn 18:28; 19:14), on Saturday (Lk 22:15-16),organized the Last Supper on Thursday, and during the Supper offered Himself as the Lamb (Jn 19:36)! Luke affirms that Jesus left for the Garden of Olives immediately after the Last Supper Offering (Lk 22:39), which makes it Friday at dusk. John, however, has to be given most credit as far as the dates are concerned, for John was the closest Disciple. According to John (Jn 19:14) “Jesus was tried and crucified on the eve of the Passover, which is on Friday.” Jesus died on Friday Noon (6:00 P.M. Jewish time)(see Jn 19:14). The speed with which the trial happened was justified by the oncoming Jewish Passover Feast. Jesus was unable to eat the Jewish Saturday lamb, for by that time He was already in the tomb! So I can affirm emphatically that there is no discrepancy in how the Greek and the Catholics celebrate: we both believe that the omniscient Jesus anticipated the Passover celebration, but some of us simply lack the necessary enlightenment and expertise to read the events correctly! To end all the disputes between the Greeks and the Catholics let me conclude with the words of Jesus that the real Passover “will only be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God” (Lk 22:16)… so let’s not quarrel about “earthly” dates!

  • Carol P

    I expected an article written by Rita Wilson. It’s an interesting article, and I enjoyed it, but why is it listed in the name of the wrong author??

  • Garak

    Bummer! I only get a single Easter feast this year!

  • James Buchanan

    That settles it…Christians are deliberately weird…

  • John

    Thank you for such a wonderful description of Orthodox Easter (Pascha) experienced by so many around the world (and personally and in my family) – a real commemoration and celebration of the Resurrection of our Christ.It is wonderful to see that no matter where you are in the world, the services and feelings are the same – we truly are celebrating the Resurrection as one Church – the Body of Christ.

  • Bridgette

    Thank you, Ms. Wilson for sharing this with us. It was very interesting and it’s wonderful to see how different traditions can lead to the same meaning – Cristos Anisti! My best to you and your family.

  • Munir

    Thank you for the article, Ms. Wilson. I was raised in an Eastern Greek Orthodox family (our church is called Syrian Orthodox in the US) in Jerusalem and later in Beirut. There are large communites of Eastern Orthodox people throughout the world, and they are the largest Christian sect in the Eastern Mediterranean, Eastern Europe & Russia, and the Arab World. We prayed in Arabic & Greek, and most of these communities pray in Greek and their native language. The Easter celebrations are quite similar in all Orthodox churches, and Easter is considered the main religious event of the year instead of Christmas.There are five main Patriarchates in the Orthodox world that are autonomous, but the Constantinople Patriarch is callled the First Among Equals. There are many national orthodox churches too. The Orthodox are not followers of the Pope and he is called the Bishop of Rome.

  • Paul

    Maybe I misunderstood you and am being a bit defensive, but your piece seems to suggest that no one but the Greek Orthodox assign any spiritual significance to or have any meaningful ritual and tradition associated with Easter. I’m a Catholic, and I’m not going to get into a lot of self-aggrandizing details of how I’ve spent Lent and Holy Week, but suffice it to say it involved a lot more than chocolate and Easter bunnies.

  • mwoman

    As someone who grew up who shared the same faith as Ms. Wilson, let me first say that her writing doesn’t do the holiday justice. But that’s okay. This is something that must be experienced, a deeply moving religious experience, one that will never be forgotten. You feel as though you have made contact with great spirits. You are elevated.However, perhaps such a religous experience is too much for some of us. We are the ones who go wandering though life. Those of us who have moved beyond the church’s doorstep – we stop going one day, and spend the rest of our days wandering the world.

  • mwoman

    Paul, I think you are being defensive. No one questioned the beauty of the Catholic’s experience of Easter, Just look at the comments this piece has offered. Not only about Eastern Orthodox Christianity, but of other cultures who have bought into the religion. Now surely, someone here among us should be able to describe the beauty of the Catholic experience?

  • Leo

    I always did enjoy and admire the pagentry of the Church, even as I wonder why one would bother doing the evolved ceremonies primarily based on what was done in the Middle Ages in Europe & ME. You would think one would mimic the acts of Jesus’s time or else be contemporary, why the time freeze to these times and costumes?I heard several stories of Easter on American TV which categorically stated that if Jesus was not bodily resurected, then there is no Christian doctrine! I can not imagine that a omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal “spiritual” being would wabt or bother with a Earthly body. What would God do with such a thing?” Why would this be the core concept taht would define Christianity? By the way, celebrating the brutal torture and murder of God as a “Human” sacrifice is ghoulish; the very idea that “God, the Father” would accept such an act as atonement for Man’s sin is bizarre…this is the guy who drowned the world several times, burned cities for lack of supplicants, refused entry of his prophets into promised lands out of pique, and in general been a pretty nasty God…who it seems only value was to smite ones enemies. I doubt people now days believe in human sacifice, virgins and babies and all that!

  • mwoman

    The ritual is what is beautiful. Although it would be interesting to see the ritual performed in different attire, like the Classical Greeks, around Jesus’ time. What would we be seeing today? Men and women in rags?

  • Bobby

    Leo wrote:As Christians we dont celebrate the act of torture and suffering Christ went through. We somberly remember his suffering that was really caused not by God, but by us. Actually in my Orthodox church, during Holy Week we drape the altar in black and on Good Friday we traditionally do not greet each other and the hymns are somber. On Easter Sunday we change the drapes to white and the hymns become joyous. We celebrate God’s love for us that led him to reconcile us to Him through the Christ. Jesus was God in human form. He was not a prophet, and not just a “good, wise man”. He was the Son of God, one with God from the beginning. He chose to die for our sins because the wage of sin = death. What was needed was an ultimate sacrifice to atone for OUR sins. God didn’t ask us to die he asked his Son, begotten not created. Only by the death of a sinless Jesus do we have a chance. Through his death and subsequent resurrection was a personal relationship with God achieved and our eternal salvation within our reach (if we choose to exercise our free will to grasp it). That is what we celebrate in Easter.John 3:16,For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  • Melinda Bates

    Leo, we are either bound together with God by blood, or separated from Him by blood. That’s why God instructed the Jews about blood sacrifice. But all those slain animals and birds were only a fore-runner of the sacrifice that would pay for all the sins of man: the sacrifice of the holy, sinless, perfect Son of God, who took on a human body specifically to fulfill this sacrifice. You are right – humans could not “kill God”. That is why it was necessary for Jesus to incarnate in a human body and shed His sinless blood as the ultimate sacrifice, uniting us again with the Father, from whom we were separated by the original sin of Adam. This is absolutely the core belief of Christians. It is not ghoulish to consider our own sins and reflect on what it cost God to reconcile us to Him. It cost the suffering and death of His Son. Just think of how loving that is. Through Jesus we are restored to our proper relationship with the Father. That’s why it is called the Good News (Gospel). It’s the most important act in history because it opens to us eternal life.

  • Jack

    “dinty: Posted April 9, 2007 11:12 AM”For an ignorant like you, of course it’s boring, what do yo know about religion, culture, etc.?,

  • herzliebster

    Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!Greetings in Christ from an Episcopalian who rejoices at how much our church has learned from the Orthodox in the last couple of generations. Easter is indeed the mother of all feasts, the Queen of Seasons, the holiest time of the year, and thanks be to God that the Western churches are slowly coming to understand this and to worship accordingly. How we worship and celebrate forms us profoundly. Ritual creates memory and meaning. To enter deeply into the reenactment of the holy mystery of Life Out of Death (not life AFTER death, and not life INSTEAD OF death) every year at the springtime, is life-giving and life-changing. You describe it beautifully. How I wish that we had the same custom and understanding that at Holy Week you clear your calendar and go to church every day. So many good, believing Christians are missing so much potential for spiritual growth by not availing themselves of the gift of full immersion in the drama of Holy Week each year. They say it’s too long, it’s too late … yet they will go to a play or a movie or a ball game or a party that lasts longer or later, and think nothing of it. What a precious heritage your church has guarded for so many generations.Peace!

  • Dr. S.C. Kemiji

    Dear Ms. Wilsom:

  • panayotis papastaphithas

    XRISTOS ANESTI

  • Hoang Taing

    Dear Ms. Wilson,I read your article with interest about your reflection on Greek Easter. I love learning about the way you celebreate Easter and how difference it is from regular American Easter. I love learning about the world community and the many festive holidays and celebrations.I am also a documentary film maker and would like to talk to you about making a documentary film on how Easter is celebrate around the world.I can be reached at [email protected]

  • Hoang Taing

    Dear Ms. Wilson,I read your article with interest about your reflection on Greek Easter. I love learning about the way you celebreate Easter and how difference it is from regular American Easter. I love learning about the world community and the many festive holidays and celebrations.I am also a documentary film maker and would like to talk to you about making a documentary film on how Easter is celebrate around the world.I can be reached at [email protected]

  • Hoang Taing

    Dear Ms. Wilson,I read your article with interests about your reflection on Greek Easter. I love learning about the way you celebreate Easter and how different it is from regular American Easter. I love learning about the world community and the many festive holidays and celebrations.I am also a documentary film maker and would like to talk to you about making a documentary film on how Easter is celebrate around the world.I can be reached at [email protected]

  • Elizabeth Maria

    Thanks for the lovely article, Mrs. Wilson.Yes, indeed, the Paschal Liturgy is a Divine Liturgy and is part of the heavenly worship of the angels. It is a foretaste of what heaven will be like. Yet, for those Catholics who are reading your article, the use of the term Midnight Mass does help them to better understand that we do celebrate the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist. And when people realize that St. Paul wrote in Greek to a largely Greek audience, then being Greek isn’t so strange after all.So this is an invitation to all to come and aee. Every Sunday Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox Church is a Pascal celebration which calls to mind the Holy Resurrection of Christ where He destroyed death by death.Xristos Anesti!Christ is Risen from the dead

  • Baci Caka

    What a nice story, it reminded me exactly the way Pashka was celebrated in my country, close to Greece, Albania. I am not a believer, but the way you described Pashka (this is how we write Pascha) made me feel worm, brought in me old memories that remain far away, in that part of the old world. I too told my American husband that there were no Bunnies, or candies or whatever you do here in America (all these are market supplements…aren’t they). In addition to all that, on Sunday kids went door to door and distributed kullure (Koulorakia), read eggs (only read) and some kind of flowers that were put on the door of every house (the whole flower was green). Eggs were also broken. Thanks my Greek neighbor. Last but not least, do you know your Tom Hangs is the greatest artist?

  • Kristo

    Great article Ms Wilson! I also remember as a kid the happiness we experienced during those holy moments of Pashka in the far-away Albania. I am an Orthodox Christian by background (non-Greek) and a non-believer. But I believe in the beautiful Orthodox tradition which is so pure and untainted with easter bunnies and commercial nonsense like this. The only thing I dislike about liturgies is that they last too long and thus become boring. Greece is the place to be for Easter and Greeks deserve to be proud of their Orthodox Easter tradition. In this spirit I wish their future generations become more tolerant towards their neighbors!

  • Theofraxis

    For those Catholics who are intrigued by the richness of Orthodox liturgical traditions but who wish to remain faithful to the Catholic Church, you should know that there are many EASTERN Catholic churches here in the United States. I became a Melkite Catholic many years ago and discovered a spirituality that has changed my life. I have enjoyed all the things mentioned in Ms. Wilson’s article in a Catholic church for many years. For more info see www (dot) melkite (dot) org

  • Liz Tsaoussis

    Alithos Anesti! Thank you Ms Wilson for explaining what we Orthodox enjoy as Easter. It truly is the holies of holy holidays. I had to laugh when you mentioned the black carbon crosses on the doorway-i remember trying to explain to a landlord that i wasn’t trying to burn the house! Baptist Minister friend of mine has attended Orthodox Easter services with me and at the end of Holy Week conferred that indeed in the Orthodox Celebration you knew, without a doubt, that Christ was there. The first time he attended he was floored by the pageantry and symbolism and beauty of the words of the chants and prayers. He said that he was so spiritually inspired when he observed the priest caring the cross around the church on Holy Thursday night and he was moved to tears during the singing of the lamentations. And that is the point to feel it, the Orthodox church is a very organic religion full of symbolism and rich expressive chants and prayers meant to touch the seat of the soul.Saturday night service is a festival of souls inclusive with firecrackers, and shouts of Christos Anesti, flowers, and the most moving of speeches by St John the Chrysodom. My Easter celebration’s have been by the beach at my godfathers beach house complete with the whole baby lamb on the spit, [we used to annually warn my German Shepherd dog he’d be next if he didn’t behave] and the most delicious kokoresti- yummy so good, and all my America friends would love it—but of course I wouldn’t tell them what it was made of, and of course Papou’s mageristia soup. And it didn’t matter where you were-where you lived, you came home for Easter, no excuses, period the end. The beautiful thing about is that now, 48 years later, it has not been commercialized – it remains a Holy Day. Yes I do know some Greek families who have Easter baskets for their children, but even the “Once A Year Christians” know the beauty and sanctity of Easter and come to church out of spiritual instinct. The religious traditions are just undeniably moving and spiritually uplifting.

  • Mike Rosco

    Anyone who scientifically,theologically and all that other mumbo jumbo stuff,disects and changes the word of God and the belief and practices of the Orthodox church is truly not blessed by the holy spirit but is a follower of the devil! The devil is a trouble maker and loves to lie and make us twist everything, everything that is good! He is the master of deception,confusion and trickery! Look at what the world was and still is! Just imagine if the whole entire world was filled with Orthodox Christians(old calendar,of course)….it would be peaceful!Why do you think that I still being baptised a Roman Catholic has left the church many years ago to follow and (try to the best of my ability)practice in both the Greek and Russian Orthodox(old calendar, mind you again)churches? I was spiritually dead were I was and was introduced by my best Greek friend from second grade to the Orthodox church.I quickly learned and understood the meaning of the church in one year than I had learned in all the years at RC church.The devil did not like that at all and played on my weakest point,my drug addiction.So there I went back out there with all the junkies and prostitutes on the streets of Hunts Point in the south Bronx of NY in search of my false happiness, living among the spiritually dead evil doers. Me being a scared white,good hearted boy did not belong there, practically living at the dealer of death’s door. I had almost been killed a few times by someone evil and what the drug was doing to by body, almost one step closer to death each time I went out there. The devil wanted my soul badly and he still does! But by the prayers of my spiritual father and best friend and his family and the poor prayers of my non-believing parents a change was made…. temporarily,I still allowed myself to fall a few more years but in a geographically different location. I thought that I had learned by my mistakes, I was too weak and powerless to deal with this on my own,I needed God’s help and I got it through my FAITH in the Orthodox church.When I look back on all the hurt that I did to my family and friends that tried over and over again to help me and all those victims of theft,and how I’m sorry to them all is what God had in plan for me and is what keeps me strong today(drug addiction free). I know I got a little off subject and lost here, I can go on and on rambling with my poorly educated proper grammer( I lost a lot of brain cells with all the drugs that I HAD done in the past)and it is the devil which is continually trying to confuse me in trying to convey my message here.Believe in one God the father almighty and in one Lord Jesus Christ and in one Holy catholic and apostolic church and you will make it into the kingdom of heaven!All other’s who don’t believe and follow the teachings of the TRUE church will indeed perish.It will be too late to argue that what you were taught by your parents and believed in created by some devil inspired man made religion was the right faith on judgement day, remember that it was the devil that confused and tricked the creators of your faith in the first place and may still be wanting for more changes for the worst. Evil wins for a short time but good last’s for eternity. Good always wins eventually..The devil will try to infiltrate your thoughts with a fineness of a strand of hair to get in and make you follow him anyway he can and sure enough if you let him little by little before you know it his work is being done! Foolish people,I pray for you with my poor prayers.I am no saint and I am not a clergyman(as you can tell), but I am a follower and believer of the Orthodox Christian way of life. Now if I could only stop having those devil inspired fears and excuses and actually convert and be baptised into the church,then I can call myself an Orthodox Christian. I have yet to discover what it truly means and feels to be a genuine OC, maybe then I could get out of this rut that I’ve been stuck in for so long and realize that this in nothing compared to the pain and suffering that non-believers are going through now or will go through for all eternity to come. Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

  • Edward Kim

    What a moving testimony of faith! Thank you for sharing your family tradition with us. It was a blessing.

  • George S.

    Dear Rita, Thanks to you, to many people in USA, have now o first idea about greek Pasxa. Xronia Polla from Athens

  • redalf

    FYI… Cathiolics are the very first protestants and they are NOT in communion with the ORTHODOX unless they choose to renounce the papacy… the COPTS too are not in communion with the Orthodox Church and is not part of ORTHODOXY… COPTS are monosophytes and do not recognise the trinity…we have to be very clear about this… ORTHODOXY is the one and only CHURCH…

  • KK

    Thank you Rita for comments about the way Greek Orthodox celebrate our most sacred holiday “Easter.” You stated it the way it is celebrated by all Greeks, since the first gospel was written. with our pious love for Christ and our religion.

  • pinelopi

    Thank you Rita for explaining to many the importance of the Greek Easter. Growing up Greek as you, we always refer to the other Easter as the “American Easter” The Anastasi is a truly moving service. No matter how old I get I still get chills when the lights are closed off in the church just before the priests passes the candlelight. However, many of us never make it for the Sunday service, since we up very late eating MAYERITSA! (Yes the soup that contains the leftover parts of the lamb that are taken out, I won’t divulge what parts exactly for the weak-hearted.)The Sunday service is quite wonderful. If anyone remembers Jesus appeared to his disciples when he was resurrected and told them to spread the story of his life and they were all able to speak other languages miraculously! (Is this where the reference “speaking in tongues” started??) The whole service is the Gospel and is read in several languages. As a child I use to go to church on Easter Sunday with my father. He was one of the few Greeks in the congregation that was able to speak and read languages other than Greek and English. Easter, to me, is not only just a religious experience it represents a part of my childhood that always brings me feeling of nostalgia.Again Rita, thank you.

  • Fr. Gregory Hallam

    Christ is Risen!Thank you Rita for that moving account of Holy Pascha and Holy Week. A little plea though from us Orthodox who have no Greek background whatsoever, (I am an English priest of the Patriarchate of Antioch). Let’s stop using the descriptors, Greek, Russian, Romanian etc. etc. We are Orthodox, simply that.

  • Helene

    Christos Anesti!It is indeed amazing…no matter where you in the world, every Orthodox Christian attends church services during the Easter celebration…no matter what your position is – busy executive, jet setter, roving reporter, etc. – the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection is ingrained into us as children and we carry it with us forever. What connects us all as Orthodox Christians is faith, hope and love. These three aspects are the daughters of Sophia – Wisdom…before the bible reading, we hear our priests say Wisdom, Let Us Be Attentive…so we stand and hear the Gospel, with faith, hope and love. In Los Angeles, the place to be on Sunday mornings is Saint Sophia Cathedral – all are welcome…no matter what your belief is today, no matter how old you are, or what your gender is, or what your ethnic background is…the Lord we believe in loves all His children. Visit http://www.stsophia.org and then visit us in person.Alithos Anesti!

  • Ola

    Remembering, as a child of 3 yrs. coming from the “old country”…a devotionally faithful Orthothox Christian, my father, established us in the Orthodox Church first and foremost, before looking for a job, etc. As a Russian Orthodox Christian (and depicting a heritage I think really is of little significance because we are ALL Orthodox Christians, our “common Rock” IS our faith!) I remember vividly our ventures to Divine Liturgy every Sunday, Holy days, etc. The holiest being Pascha…which in fact is celebrated each Sunday with Divine Ltiurgy. Memories of my family as we entered Great Lent with determination, need and love, of the physical and mental “fasting” in preparation of Holy Pascha were, and stil are, a very beautiful and humbling declaration of our faith. I still feel the excitement with the baking, natural red-dyeing eggs from onion skins/beets, but most importantly, the last Holy Week and it’s very significant recollections in the humns and chants of our Faith through our services, then ultimately Holy Pascha, when “Christ is Risen!”. Such a joyous awareness which is so deeply felt that it is almost indescribable without having gone through it oneself! Thank you for sharing your Orthodox Faith with us Ms Wilson!

  • Renee

    Thank you, Ms. Wilson, from a Greek Orthodox Christian who was quite moved by the description of your experience, which I and surely many others of the Greek Orthodox Faith (the ORIGINAL Christian church!)recognized as our own–down to the house-blessing with candles.Xristos Anesti to you and your family and to Christians all around the world!

  • Tina

    Thank you Rita.I am a Greek Australian who is constantly subjected to snide remarks from Anglo-Australian’s each year the Orthodox Pascha does not coincide with that of the Anglo-Catholic one and tired of having to explain why, only to be met with further redicule by many non-Greek Australians (Catholic or Anglican), who choose to see Easter as simply another pulic holiday and an opportunity to “throw another shrimp on the barbie”. Each year our practice of following the Epitafios around the church block, complete with lamentations and lit candles, is rediculed by the Anglo-Australians who chose to view this solemn funerial procession, as an idolatrous pagan ritual. To Paul Isaac Hagouel of Thessaloniki Greece, I can only say: I have lived amongst the Sephardic Jews(which I assume you are) and have observed that Sephardic Jewish rites are to Judaism what Orthodoxy is to Christianity. The oximoron you posed in your epistle is understandable and justified: Greek and Jewish Orthodox religious rites, rituals and sensibilities are inextricably linked.Thank you again Rita for your informative, moving and educational account of a religious practice which remains to date, the most accurate depiction of the passion and ressurection of Christ: a practice unfettered by the pressures of a commercialised modern world.Christos Anesti!

  • Kosta

    Alithos Anesti!I thank God that my parents guided me from an early age to my Orthodox faith and that I decided over the years to cling onto it. Now into my 40′s, I am drawn deeper into my Christian faith as I deal with circumstances in my life. The buildup and celebration of Easter has always been the best time of the year for me since I can remember. It now excites me even more to pass and explain this to my 4 year old daughter even though I have to deal with her cute remarks of when the bunny is bringing the chocolates :) Rita, I very much liked how you described the true meaning and celebration of our Easter. Also, it is wonderful that you have held onto your faith. God bless you and your family.Xronia Polla from Montreal, Canada

  • Macedonian Orthodox

    Why do the Greeks celebrate Easter based on the old calendar, but not Christmas?Come to any Macedonian Orthodox Church in January and we will be celebrating Christmas.The Greeks are INCONSISTENT with their faith, and change things to suit themselves. They also don’t like to admit that there are other orthodox churches. Why?Nice writing Rita, glad you keep up your faith, but get real, it’s not “Greek Easter”, it’s “Orthodox Easter”.

  • vasiliki

    What a wonderful article. I loved sharing it with my children who are just getting old enough to understand the symbolism and appreciate the traditions of this holy time. Our church has a wonderful Saturday morning service where the priest reinacts the “event” of the stone being move away from Jesus tomb (we call it the earthquake)and Jesus goes down to raise the dead. The alterboys are in the back flashing the lights, banging pots and pans and making other noises…while the priest walks around the church spewing flower petals at everyone…depicting the movement of the earth…It is amazing and enjoyed by all.

  • Leo G. Manta

    Dear Rita,

  • Anne Govostis

    Ms. Wilson,I laughed when you mentioned your hair catching on fire. That happened to me, too, when I was ten years old. Of course, I was goofing around with my friends and not paying attention. So in a way, I must have deserved it. I will never forget that smell! Ugh!Anne Govostis

  • Dimitris Didios

    Bravo sou.Religion is best if done in moderation.

  • Fr. John Kalomas

    Hi Rita:Alithos AnestiFr. John KalomasP.S. To Priscilla I think the response is Hakka Qam.

  • Betty Veras

    Your reflections were said better than I could have said them. They have been forwarded to our children so that they can remember and also share it with their children. With thanks,

  • Alan

    This was a very enlightening piece and its about time

  • john

    Thank you for your wonderful viewpoints on our holiest holiday!! I will save your articel for my 4 year old nephew, it will give him the perfect understanding of our culture.I am a first generation greek american and must say a big thank you (to you)…you have made me so proud to be a greek american…I always say that if I could have lunch with one person in this lifetime it would be Rita Wilson….What you have done for our culture-showcasing Greek-Americans in My big fat Greek wedding and the upcoming film Mama Mia..tourism to Greece will continue to increase, I am sure the Greek Tourism Ministry is very thankful….Kali zoi na perasis mazi me tin eikoyennia sou kai efharisto yia ola pou kanis yia tin ellada..John

  • Elissa Chakonas

    Rita,

  • Diana

    Xristos Anesti!I’m a single mom now of 2 autistic boys & as much as I would have loved to teach them of our greek holidays & traditions, meanings of any sort get lost w/ them. Taking them anywhere in public is a challenge, much less taking them to church & expecting them to sit still & quiet for 3 hours…(not possible). We still have Easter dinner w/ the lamb & all with my family & it’s a wonderful day, but I do miss going to church Easter week & I thank you for giving me the experience again through your article! I really enjoyed it!

  • Strat

    Ms. Wilson,Christos Anesti – Christ is Risen!Your article is awesome!!! It also comes at time when the pressures of children’s sports/school activities/everyday American life seem to increasingly encroach on this “Tithing of Time” if you will, that we are called to as Orthodox Christians throughout life, but especially during Great Lent/Great Week/Holy Friday and Pascha. Thank you for affirming the value of our ancient way even in 21st Century America.As a Catholic/Orthodox mixed marriage family, we share both the chocolate and the red eggs, the marzipan lamb with the roast lamb…even searching for eggs in the yard after having already searched for the Savior in the empty tomb at the Rush Procession on Pascha.I would just like to expand on the fact that the ethos of this celebratory spirit was originally understood and shared by Western and Eastern Christians in general whether they are Roman Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox or Catholics of the Byzantine Rite, non-Chalcedonian Christians such as Copts, Armenians, Malankarite Indians, Ethiopians or any other Ancient Eastern Christian Churches. Although our fasts/breads/foods/egg decorating customs may vary, the triumph of Christ’s resurrection is central… for the renewal of humanity by Christ’s harrowing of Hades, and victory over death and His subsequent restoration of fallen humanity to full communion with our Creator… it is this which we celebrate.. the very essence of our salvation is embodied in Pascha… our passing from eternal death to eternal life. In closing, I would just like to say that I am blessed to be part of an Eastern Orthodox Christian Parish that has completed a half-century of sharing the customs of Eastern Byzantine Orthodox Christians from many mother churches and mother tongues – we are Americans who are ethnically Greeks, Slavs, Syrians, Lebanese, Georgians, Romanians and Converts who share the best that we all bring from our mother customs while integrating an American understanding of Orthodox Christianity by worshipping in English and using the liturgical music of various ethnic traditions. If one was to attend our Paschal breakfast, stuffed grape leaves, magheritsa (Greek Easter Soup)/Tsoureki, and Slavic kielbasa/Sirnaya Pascha (Pascha Cheese) would be seen sharing the breakfast table with hoagies, fried chicken and chocolate cake. We are as adept at saying “Christ is Risen” in Greek, English, Slavonic, Romanian and Georgian as we are at saying it in Italian, English or Irish Gaelic.The prokeimenon or tract that is chanted in the Orthodox Church (and I believe in the Roman Church) during the Paschal Liturgy is, “This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us Rejoice and be glad in it!”May we all see a day when the “us” above is truly meant and understood as “all of us”… that we may partake of, and observe the Lenten struggle and passion of Christ to better celebrate the day of gladness and joy – His Resurrection!Christ is Risen!

  • Bess

    Rita,

  • Nick Alexander

    Hey Rita!Good stuff! Went to St. Nick’s – I’m Greek Orthodox too, but haven’t practiced in awhile. Your description brought back a lot of great memories… MaybeI should get back on the horse, eh?… Yasou!

  • Alexandra

    Thank you for your reflections on our shared faith. The simple traditions celebrate an awe inspiring event. Each tradition reminds us of the glorious meaning of Easter. The memories that remain in your heart remain in mine as well and will hopefully be carried to my children and theirs. XRISTOS ANESTI RITA and FAMILY from your Sacramento counterparts.

  • amy bazuzi

    Thank you, Rita, for your article that I plan to share with many others. To Elissa Chakonas (and others), I want to extend an invitation to worship with us at Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Linthicum, MD (immediately south of Baltimore, before the BWI Airport), where we have a gifted young man who so joyfully signs the Paschal Liturgies and processions for those who do not hear. On request, he will also sign the regular Sunday Services as well. To Strat, if I did not know differently, I would have thought you were describing our Antiochian parish. We, too, are a multi-cultural and multilingual congregation, equally cradle as convert. I share your love of the Orthodox home you have found. To Diana, I encourage you to find a church home for your family. Our church is one where all young people are most welcome during the liturgy. In fact, there is nowhere else for them to be; “Sunday School” occurs after (not during) the liturgy and not just for the children but for all. With the gentle, loving guidance of all congregants (almost co-parenting), children of many ages and abilities learn the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. We have had young people with both autism and Asperger’s (sic)in our midst. As perpetual children of God, they teach us all true humility. Our church has no pews, only several rows of just a relative handful of chairs on both the right and left sides of a large open space where most of us stand for the duration of the liturgy. Children are permitted to wander a bit, knowing that others will patiently guide or encircle those who may seek to stray further. When they tire, they may sit on the floor, standing for important prayers or during the Great Entrance and Gospel readings. A group of mothers of preschool children have constructed picture books of icons for children to look at when their attention to the liturgy can no longer be maintained. If you like, you may read a brief article that explains our church’s view of children in church which can be found at the following link:

  • Perri

    Xristos Anesti!Your article says it all about the Greek Orthodox Easter Celebration. I myself am Greek American and have a daughter we are raising Greek Orthodox even though my husband is Catholic. Although she does go to both churches, it was very important to me that she be a part of this wonderful religion and culture. I am trying to teach her that the Orthodox religion is full of symbolism and deep meaning and that it’s just not all about bunnies and candy on Easter. Thanks for clearing up so many issues that we Greeks have been trying to explain to the “xeni” for years.God bless you and your familyPerri

  • Anna Maria

    Xristos Anesti Rita! I’m a Demacopoulos of the Chicago Demacopouloses :) (to whom your friend Nia is related whether she likes it or not)

  • George Comney

    I was a catechumen repelled by your anti-Semitic service, especially on

  • D9

    As someone who entered the Greek Orthodox through his marriage, I can attest to the sheer beauty of belonging to such a Church from an “outsider’s” view (Baptist). The subsequent dissolution of my marriage has not altered my strong desire to remain in the Greek Orthodox, in large part to the sacred elegance in which the Church observes Christianity, especially Pascha. I truly feel blessed upon each Liturgy the Lord allows me to participate.Christos Anesti!/

  • Minerva Sabbagh

    Your article is well written and just made me relive mine. All during Great Lent and especially during Holy Week we are on a journey that Christ also took toward Golgotha and to His Resurrection. We are doing the same in recalling all the major events to the reason Christ came down to be born and to suffer–to conquer death and to grant us eternal life if we follow His footsteps. It is wonderful for you to admit your traditions and rituals in these days and for your family to follow in your parents’ footsteps. Love for Christ will continue through the generations.

  • Minerva Sabbagh

    Your article is well written and just made me relive mine. All during Great Lent and especially during Holy Week we are on a journey that Christ also took toward Golgotha and to His Resurrection. We are doing the same in recalling all the major events to the reason Christ came down to be born and to suffer–to conquer death and to grant us eternal life if we follow His footsteps. It is wonderful for you to admit your traditions and rituals in these days and for your family to follow in your parents’ footsteps. Love for Christ will continue through the generations.

  • Bethany

    Truly, He is Risen!Ms. Wilson-

  • tina

    George Comneylet’s not polute everyone’s enjoyment of the Paschal rituals described in Rita’s epistle and let’s not start about the anti-semitism where there is so much in Torah and Talmud that is anti-christian. I know it too well, being a an Orthodox Greek, married to an Orthodox Jew. Top that baby!Greeks eat seafood and love it. In fact gentiles right around the world eat seafood and love it, and have had no inkling until now that it is a Jew-hating excerise to do so. Certainly news to me, but I will think of you ‘very fondly’ from now on, every time I do. But let’s not start about the strange practices of others – particularly those who choose to perpetuate themselves by breeding amongst themselves. Some village has definitely lost its idiot. Can someone please come forward to claim!

  • Evelyn

    I am a Polish Orthodox Christian who belongs to a Greek Church, largely because I am a musician and took a choir director job in the Greek Church. I was Roman Catholic for many years until I became Orthodox. And I have also worked for the Episcopal Church. Let me say that though the Orthodox Easter is beautiful and very deep spiritually, and I absolutely love it, every denomination stives its utmost to celebrate this most wonderful feast in a most glorious fashion! I have seen so many beautiful celebrations in all these churches! I’ve seen magnificent flowers, heard/conducted stunning music/choirs. In short, everyone brings out their very best for Easter. I do applaud Ms. Wilson for explaining the Orthodox Easter because as I have found out first hand, many people do not understand the difference and think all we do is sit in church! But Easter/Pascha is glorious and we all celebrate gloriously together!

  • John

    It’s Chrysostom.

  • Lana Kaishian

    Dear Ms. Wilson:Your article was a wonderfully written, heartfelt testament to the glory of Greek Orthodoxy. It was a pleasure to read.

  • Kalotina

    Greetings Rita, from the Isle of Patmos (where St. John the Theologian received the vision of the Apocalypse and wrote the book of Revelations).There is no shortage of religious festivals and pageantry throughout the calendar year on this island and all of them are special but I must say that Easter and its round-the-clock services are the most beautiful of anywhere in the world. Palm Sunday is spectacular with the ceremony of the “Niptiras” or the washing of the feet. This magnificent cycle play dates back to the Middle Ages and sees the Abbot of Patmos washing the feet of the other monks in the medieval setting of the town square of Chora, at the foot of the 11th Century fortress built by the Knights of the Crusades. Until recent years, this ceremony was performed only in Patmos, but has since been adopted and performed now publicly in Rome by the Pope.For Holy Week, we Patmians move into the Byzantine hours and as night becomes day, our services re-enact every hour of Christ’s passion leading up to the his crucifixion. It is the most beautiful time of our religious calendar and the most spiritual time for me. The older I get, the more I appreciate it and hold on to it firmly with both hands. Thank you Rita for conveying this beauty to those who have never experienced our faith and we hope you and your family come to celebrate Holy Week on Patmos one day. I am sorry that some feel they need to poison this interesting and intellectual blogg interchange with their racial and political commentary. Maybe this blogger would do well to hand out religious infringements to his fellow Jews who hypocritically consume pork and shellfish privately, whilst observing their koscher food laws publically.That Greeks in America may not be able to enter the ‘golden’ realm of high political office, is possibly because this well oiled and tightly-knit cabal is already overcrowded by your lot. That America is so close to bankruptcy perhaps is not a good advertisement for those that hold such exalted positions.I feel sure that if we Christians hijacked a Jewish blog with a venom such as yours, we would have suffered a media backlash by now. So in the spirit of forgiveness and love, I wish you …..Xristos Anesti May you in turn, embrace the spirit of forgiveness and put past hurts aside, on your Day of Atonement.Shalom!

  • DN

    Rita,Thank you for writing such a beautiful article. I am a Greek Orthodox Christian in Detroit, and agree with everything you said. There is nothing like Holy Week in the Orthodox Church, with its beautiful services filled with ritual, tradition and reverance. From the wonderful Kassiani service, to Holy Unction, to the hauntingly beautiful chant of Simeron Kremate on Holy Thursday, to the lamentations on Friday, the procession around the church and passing under the Epitaphio. All of this leads to the Resurrection service, which still sends chills down my spine when the priest emerges from the altar with a single candle light, chanting Defte Lavete Fos, and then watching the church slowly brighten as all the candles are lit from front to back. And, we cannot forget the Agape Service on Easter Sunday either. But, it is more than just the beauty of these services. The weekly Divine Liturgy, with the chanting petitions from the clergy and the responses sung by the choir. What about the beauty and imagery of the Orthodox wedding service, that has some of the most moving and beautiful prayers ever written – if every couple truly listened to the deep meaning and depth behind these words, they would never even contemplate divorce in the future. I could go on – the baptism service and words the priest intones as he anoints the baby with holy oil, vesper services, etc. I invite anyone to come experience an Orthodox Service. Sometimes you may not understand every word, particularly if the native language of the church is used, but read the liturgy books, go onto the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan website (www.goarch.org) and look up the services, watch the videos, and you will understand why most Orthodox are so proud of their faith and traditions. Christos Anesti, Rita, and my God continue to bless and keep you, Tom and your children always in His care. All Greeks are VERY proud of you!!!

  • Ourania

    Christos Anesti.

  • G.A. Georgeson

    Rita, Xhistos Asnesti!!! Thanks for a great article. You make me even more proud of my heritage. George A. Georgeson

  • Atanasio

    Great Article Mrs Wilson! Αληθώς Ανέστη!Αι γενεαί πάσαι

  • eleftheria

    XRISTOS ANESTHLet me say few more thinks grandpa told me one Easter as I grow up in Greece .for the Greek orthodox Easter. Comes always in spring when a new life on earth start the flowers bloom, the grass becomes greener the birds immigrate to Greece from Africa (xelidonia) the grape vines bloom plantation for the vegetable start a new life start for every one on earth, and thanks to Jesus he went to cross to give us a new beginning, to all of us Orthodox, Catholics, Protestant Baptist Evangelicals ,a Christian is a Christian ,like the proverb said ,the apple will fall under the apple tree and even if goes further out it will be under the shadow of the apple tree. No mater the name of the dogma or the tradition in each of our churches the Bible is the same and even if interpreted little different it no mater my grand father said we all are Jewish because Christianity with out the Old Testament is a tree with out roots, if any one question in your life Jesus and Christianity tell him this not as Greek but as proof how Jesus new if was not the son of God. That a Greek 324 years later Constantine the Great will recognize the Christianity as the official religion in the Roman Empire.I kept my promise to grandpa that I keep the tradition this year I told the God mother (Nouna) of my first grandson in loss Angeles on holy Thursday buy him a white candle decorate it buy him a pair of shoes white (he is I year old) a red egg and a tsoureki (a sweet bread) and come to celebrate with him the

  • Yiannoula

    Xristos Anesti!Thanks so much for the wonderful article. It’s great to see a mainstream publication giving “airtime” to our wonderful traditions.

  • John

    Of course “Greek” easter is also the same as “Russian” “Serbian” “Romanian” “Ugandan” or even “American” Easter. It is an Orthodox Christian celebration, this is what makes it unique. Orthodox Believers around the world celebrate the same services at the same time (midnightish) every year. The only thing that would be different is the style of music (byzantine chant vs. 4 part harmony) and the language that the service is done in. It’s not an ethnic celebration, but a Christian celebration. More accurately, it is THE Christian celebration-the Celebration of celebrations!

  • ELAS

    Rita! Thank you for your article explaining our rich theology and traditions to the American public. Growing up a Greek girl w/ immigrant parents was hard at times – I so loved and “resembled” My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Maybe not the “side burns” part, but I did go to Greek School and regularly got things like lamb sandwiches and grape leaves (dolmathes) in my lunch, while others ate their PBJ Wonderbread sandwiches. Now as an adult and a mother of 3 Greek-American children (I too put dolmathes in their lunch – they love them!), I still am required to explain away WHY our Easter (Pascha) is usually a different date, our red-egg tradition, why we can’t be bothered Holy Week, etc. It just makes me feel so “mainstream” having one of Hollywood’s jet-set with the same background, traditions, faith and experience. A funny story to relate: A few years back, we all ended up at my parent’s home after the Anastasi service for the traditional 2:00 AM FEAST! We were all dressed nicely, having just come back from church, there was a fabulous spread on the table, Anastasi candles were lit and burning brightly throughout the house — It was a joyous celebration. Unfortunately, one of our family members started to experience a medical problem, that soon turned into a medical emergency (post script: everything turned out ok in the end). We had to call 911 and EMT’s were soon at the house. Our family member was sprawled out, looking rather incoherent…. The EMT’s looked around, and given the late hour, our dress, the food, etc…. They asked, “Are you having a party?” To which we quickly replied, “No, it’s Easter.” That of course made no sense to them since THEIR Easter was a month and a half ago, and what does a 2:00AM feast have to do with Easter anyway? We then tried to further clarify by saying, “We are Greek!” You get the picture… the EMT’s were scratching their heads, thinking to themselves, these must be the most best-dressed, partying druggies we have ever seen! It took quite a bit of convincing to assure the EMT’s that our family member had not overdosed on any controlled substance. The only think we were “full of” that night was the Holy Spirit and the hope and joy the Resurrected Christ brought into our hearts. Xristos Anesti! Alithos Anesti! Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!

  • Itzhak

    Paul Hagouel,I am a Greek American who is Jewish, and I never have trouble with this among Greeks or Greek Americans but you would be amazed at the comments I get from my co-religionists. I think Rita Wilson’s piece was quite good. If we are going to nitpick you should consider what one could write about Purim or some of the outrageous language bordering on hate speech based on factual errors about historic Jewish – Greek relations promulgated around Hanukkah one can find in attendant holiday write-ups from Jewish Americans.

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  • KIKI KARAMITOPOULOS

    RITA, ALHTHOS ANESTH KOUKLA!!! THANK YOU FOR BEING A PROUD GREEK AMERICAN WOMAN. XRONIA POLLA TO EVERYBODY ELSE AS WELL(even to those of you who have been a little rude in the comments above) :-)

  • john

    thank you for a wonderful perspective on orthodox easter!!!I am a fellow proud Greek American and am happy as to what you are doing for Greek culture.I understand the movie Mama Mia is going into production soon, I hope you get Athens in the movie somehow, perhaps having Sophie and mom going on a shopping for wedding dress with a historical tour…watching them walking around the antiquites of Athens would be so charming, whats more beautiful than walking from the ancient stadium to temple of zeus, Lysicrates monument, ancient cemetary and the new beautiful promenade?and good luck with my life in ruins…..I hope thats another huge hit!!!yiasas

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  • ignat43

    Where in the Holy Bible do you find God’s order to celebrate Easter, Good Friday, Christmas, Lent, etc. These are man-created holy days — not days set aside by God.

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  • Amy

    Does ANY Christian religion celebrate Easter services using chocolate and bunnies?? To compare a solemn church service to the secular vestiges of popular entertainments associated with a religious holiday is comparing apples and potato chips. Roman Catholics also have a beautiful 3-day Easter Triduum celebration, involving candles, symbolism, a (relatively) long Saturday service, and not a bunny in sight. That said, I admire the way my Orthodox friends often create a home environment filled with simple but hard-core religious symbolism & activity, not watered down for children at all. Catholics have lost a lot of their devotional traditions in the past 40 years, and more’s the pity.

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  • Christine Rackas

    March 14, 2008Being of Greek ancestery, I loved reading your posting of April 8, 2007 in the Washington Post on Greek Easter, clipped it out, and re-read it again this year.It brought back many memories of when I was a child at Easter.(I hope I am not too forward when I ask you if you and your husband, Tom Hanks (who I remember from when he lived in Cleveland…although he certainly doesn’t know me)were married in the Greek Church?) With Greek Easter coming up in April this year, I am a bit early, but I do wish you both, and your family, a very Happy, Blessed Easter.Sincerely,

  • michael

    Interesting article. But being equally Orthodox as the Greeks, I get so tired of hearing everything Ortohdox referred to as GREEK Orthodox, which, in fact, comprises the smallest number of us Orthodox if we take into account the total number of all other Orthodox Christians: Albanian, Antiochian, Bulgarian, Rumanian, Russian, Ukranian and the autocephalous OCA, which includes many different ethnic Orthodox Christian groups. So why is it that the Greeks so ofte refer to themselves as “The Orthodox”? Or to Easter as “Greek Easter” or to “Great Lent” as Greek Lent? Get with it please! Let us get rid of the ethnicity and simply look at ourselves as “Orthodox Christians. Is there an essential difference among Orthodox Christians? Are we not as citizens of this country simply Americans with English as our national language? And are we not simply Orthodox Christians (and proud of it!)? Christos Voskres! Voistinu voskres. Or shouldn’t I say: Christ is risen. Indeed He is risen.?

  • Angela

    May God Bless you Rita with your precise and very passionate writing of the Orthodox Easter. It is my favourite time of the year because you sense the very depths of our faith and you truly feel His love for us. First is the fasting where you practically have to give up everything (you even have to watch the things that come out of your mouth), but somehow, even with this small sacrifice Jesus Christ finds a way to make things seem easier. My little miracle. On the 4th May this year it will be 6 years that my sister (38 years old) passed away. She passed after a long battle with cancer (11 months). She was my angel. The miracle is that she passed on Holy Saturday at 9:25pm. Five minutes prior to her passing we were all sitting there in the hospital sought of waiting for her to go but we didn’t know that it was going to be that day. I heard this voice saying “Get up and say the Xristos Anesti”. I got up from where I was lying down and for some strange reason I didn’t adhere to the voice straight away, again I heard it louder and more demanding the same words. I started shaking and crying. My family thought I was nuts “What’s wrong with you?” they said. I said, “Quick, she’s going, we have to chant”. They didn’t listen, so I got up, went to stand at her left side and started chanting without them. They realised then that they had no choice but to join me, so they did. What happened? We chanted the easter hymn once, twice and on the third? She stopped breathing. My beloved sister was gone. The pain was unbearable for us but I’m sure that it was pure joy for my sister as she went to Heaven to spend the Resurrection with Our Lord. She also did all the necessary things to cleanse her soul, her confessions, her communions countless of times. I share my story with you as I do with everyone. People still love to hear it because it happened in our times. Miracles do happen, every minute of every day. Our Guardian Angel is waiting, right beside us and whispering at our conscience to do the right thing. When we hear this voice we shouldn’t ignore it because it could save us from complete and utter disaster. I thank God that we had such an awesome experience and wish all of the world “KALH ANASTASH”.

  • Angela

    May God Bless you Rita with your precise and very passionate writing of the Orthodox Easter. It is my favourite time of the year because you sense the very depths of our faith and you truly feel His love for us. First is the fasting where you practically have to give up everything (you even have to watch the things that come out of your mouth), but somehow, even with this small sacrifice Jesus Christ finds a way to make things seem easier. My little miracle. On the 4th May this year it will be 6 years that my sister (38 years old) passed away. She passed after a long battle with cancer (11 months). She was my angel. The miracle is that she passed on Holy Saturday at 9:25pm. Five minutes prior to her passing we were all sitting there in the hospital sought of waiting for her to go but we didn’t know that it was going to be that day. I heard this voice saying “Get up and say the Xristos Anesti”. I got up from where I was lying down and for some strange reason I didn’t adhere to the voice straight away, again I heard it louder and more demanding the same words. I started shaking and crying. My family thought I was nuts “What’s wrong with you?” they said. I said, “Quick, she’s going, we have to chant”. They didn’t listen, so I got up, went to stand at her left side and started chanting without them. They realised then that they had no choice but to join me, so they did. What happened? We chanted the easter hymn once, twice and on the third? She stopped breathing. My beloved sister was gone. The pain was unbearable for us but I’m sure that it was pure joy for my sister as she went to Heaven to spend the Resurrection with Our Lord. She also did all the necessary things to cleanse her soul, her confessions, her communions countless of times. I share my story with you as I do with everyone. People still love to hear it because it happened in our times. Miracles do happen, every minute of every day. Our Guardian Angel is waiting, right beside us and whispering at our conscience to do the right thing. When we hear this voice we shouldn’t ignore it because it could save us from complete and utter disaster. I thank God that we had such an awesome experience and wish all of the world “KALH ANASTASH”.

  • Jennifer Cross

    Thank you Rita for such a wonderful article about the preparation for and celebration of Pascha! I live in NYC and attend the OCA Cathedral there. There is nothing like attending the services of Great Lent, the Presanctified Liturgies, everything leading up to this awesome Holy Week. The anticipation of Pascha, the beautiful music of the Church during these fasting days are among my favorites of the year. There is nothing like the priest and congregation of believers shouting Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen! many times in so many different languages to proclaim this victory to the world. I can’t imagine any other joy so great in this world when our Lord conquers death for us and I really feel that in the Orthodox celebrations. Wishing everyone and their families a blessed Pascha.Jennifer

  • Vasiliki Oldziey

    A big thank you to Rita Wilson for writing this loving piece on Paska. However, she errs by referring to it as ‘Greek Easter’, when in fact it is Orthodox Easter (Paska). All of the Orthodox, whether they be Russian, Albanian, Antiochian, Japanese, Romanian, Ethiopian, Iritrean, etc., celebrate Paska in the same fashion and at the same time as the Greek Orthodox.We are one church who shout Christ in Risen! Indeed He is Risen! in all the languages of the world!

  • JoANN S.

    I WAS VERY HAPPY TO SEE THAT THE PEOPLE WE ENJOY SEEING IN THE WORLD WE CALL TINSELTOWN KEEP THE FAITH OF GOD. THE ENTRY REGARDING THE LENTEN PERIOD, HOLY WEEK AND PASHA ARE ABSOLUTELY TRUE AND WONDERFUL FOR THOSE OF US WHO CELEBRATE THIS TIME OF YEAR AND YES IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TIME IN OUR CHURCH. HOWEVER, I KNOW THAT THE GREEK PEOPLE CELEBRATE THIS EASTER BUT THEY ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES WHO CELEBRATE THIS EASTER. I UNDERSTAND THAT WHEN THEY ARE GROWING UP THEY REFER TO THIS AS “GREEK” EASTER. THIS IS “ORTHODOX” EASTER. IT IS CELEBRATED BY “ALL” ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS AND WE ALL CELEBRATE IT IN THE SAME WAY AND BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN ONLY HAVE EASTER AFTER THE PASSOVER. I THINK THAT IT WOULD BE NICE TO CLARIFY THIS STATEMENT AND LET THE WORLD KNOW THAT “ORTHODOX” EASTER IS CELEBRATED THIS WAY AND IT IS NOT EXCLUSIVE TO “GREEKS”. BY THE WAY I HAVE MANY GREEK FRIENDS AND THEY ARE WONDERFUL PEOPLE SO THIS IS NOT A SLAM TO ANYONE BY ANY MEANS. THANK YOU

  • Maria Skiadas

    This was really beautiful.

  • Chris

    GREAT WRITING AND DESCRIPTION.!!

  • joyce allen

    What a great synopsis. I will pass this on to some of my very special non Orhtodox friends.CHIRSTOS ANESTI.

  • Magdalena Tahamtani

    What a beautiful way to describe a tradition that we Greek Americans can all relate to. Thank you for relating it so well!

  • Magdalena Tahamtani

    What a beautiful way to describe a tradition that we Greek Americans can all relate to. Thank you for relating it so well!

  • helen coutlis

    Ritas explaination of the Greek Easter is exactly right!! Here in the middle of Africa, we have a Greek Orthodox Church called Agios Andreas, where as young children we congregated in awe as the Holy Week continued right up to Easter Saturday, and the Anastasi, In those days, there were so many Greek people that the church was filled to bursting, and we had to stand outside,all around the church, as soon as 12 o`clock midnight and the Xristos Anesti was heard, some of the congregation would let of fireworks, and the church bell would ring, unfortunately living in a multi nation country, the next door neighbour took exception to all this going on, and she called the police out!!Nowadays there are fewer Greeks here and the Church is usually 2/3ds full, but we still have this wondrous feeling, and at the end of it all, you have some lovely memories.

  • Buddy Summers

    Wouldn’t it be great if we all were to write with such light, joy and good humor about our religious traditions? Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Rita,The fast is supposed to be for 40 days – not Holy Week. It is so sad that so many Greeks have forsaken their heritage beginning with the communist inspired adoption of the new calendar.Giving up sodas? What happened to foregoing meat, dairy and oil? Too difficult? Why not just join a Catholic parish?

  • A plain human

    I can’t believe the responses from some posters. In this article, Ms. Wilson is sharing a beautiful tradition with the world; attempting to give some of us who are not of this culture, religion, belief system an insight into the meaning of the rituals of the Greek Orthodox religion. I don’t think Ms. Wilson is trying to explain the totality of the Orthodox Church in one article. Can any of you? Instead of appreciating the article for what it is, a sharing of traditions and rituals; some people instantly go for the petty negativity by pointing out the differences in religious beliefs, names, practices, etc. Wouldn’t it be a better, more enriching experience for all readers if these “critics” share their traditions in a more positive manner? Here are the reactions I get reading Ms. Wilson’s article and some bloggers responses: I smiled after the article because I learned something new; I’m filled with frustration and anger reading the critical bloggers because my take-way was that these are ignorant people. By the way, I grew up in a staunch Catholic family and married into a Jewish family. Our two families have a difference of opinions in theology, but our major commonality is that we believe in God and we believe in treating people as humans. The two families respect and accept our differences and celebrate what we are able to teach one another. Is this a naive view? Perhaps…but I would rather be naive than be angry and close-minded.Thank you Ms. Wilson for teaching me something new.

  • Dan Asta

    Mr/Ms Anonymous,Please read more carefully next time. Ms. Wilson said they fast and in addition hold off soda, but they did so this year. She didn’t say they merely hold off the soda.And I as the grandson and nephew of a priest and a most pious mother could never never do what my mother did and hold off milk and dairy for 40 days. I would die. But I did do it for 7 days. Rita leaves one point out about taking communion at the service on Saturday night. You fast totally on Saturday leading up to the service. Yes, that’s right. 18 hours without any food whatsoever. We drank water. But according to some people responding on this message board, apparently we were not doing it seriously enough. Maybe we should have flagellated ourselves too.

  • thishowiseeit

    WARNING! THIS POST MY OFFEND YOU.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if the authors of the NT were influenced by these solar events.Nope – just by witnessing the resurrection of Jesus Christ.Sorry.

  • sydney5

    Dear Rita,As a fellow Catholic, I cannot fathom how you have chosen to align your Greek Orthodox beliefs with the Demococratic Party. Thia is where you lose me. With the tenets of Catholicism, your beliefs, as a Democrat, are outside of Greek Orthodox or Roman Catholic beliefs. Spin your beliefs, as you may, but it is what it is.

  • sydney5

    God Bless You, Angela. Your post brought me to tears.

  • Joanna

    Dear Rita:Many thanks for your beautiful explanation of the Eastern Orthodox rite of Easter. As a second generation Greek American I always find myself having to explain to my non-Greek friends about our differences. Your explanation was very succinct. The only mistake, as far as I could see, was that you called our service a “Mass” We call it a Liturgy, the term Mass is a Catholic one. Thanks again. Christos Anesti.

  • Rafael Kokmadhi

    Great Article, however the Easter described is best titled “Orthodox Easter” whose many members in countries (Russa, Bulgaria, Syria, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, etc.) essentially follow the same practices. The way the article is written does well to describe her experiences with the Orthodox Easter as practiced by the Greeks, yet leaves the impression that there are no other Orthodox who celebrate Easter in similar fashion.

  • Charles S. Cotsis

    Xristos Anesti Rita and Tom Hanks;

  • Charles S. Cotsis

    Xristos Anesti Rita and Tom Hanks;

  • Charles S. Cotsis

    Xristos Anesti Rita and Tom Hanks;

  • John Kakos

    Rita

  • Monica Pappas

    Thanks for a wonderful article. I am not Greek; only Russian/slovak; but I have reared my family as Greek Orthodox. My husband speaks, reads & writes Greek, pretty good for second generation. My kids are Greek…and we love our Easter as you do just as we love being Greek…dancing, mystery, icons…the whole bag.My daughter graduates this June and we are planning a “Big, Fat Greek Graduation Party” for her. Christos Anesti!

  • Melanie

    It’s important to see where our traditions originate, rather than pointing out that our traditions are better than the next guys, as most “Proud Greek” emails do.Mark 7:8 – “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” Mark 7:9 – And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! Mark 7:13 – Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” Psalm 40:4 – Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

  • Melanie

    It’s important to see where our traditions originate, rather than pointing out that our traditions are better than the next guys, as most “Proud Greek” emails do.Mark 7:8 – “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” Mark 7:9 – And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! Mark 7:13 – Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” Psalm 40:4 – Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

  • Cheryl

    Why do Greeks use the “Us (Greeks) vs. Them (Americans)” tone? WE do Red not pastels, OUR lamb is roasted not chocolate, WE don’t do bunnies. Following traditions and rituals is very nice, but it does not make one a true believer in Jesus Christ. Traditions have nothing to do with faith, so to attempt to triumph one tradition over another, in the name of Christ, does not make any sense.

  • Nick Nicoloff

    Dear Rita,

  • Mrs. Doris Cougras

    Christos Anesti!! Glory To GodI will share this with my Church School Teachers. In Christ Doris

  • Marina

    Couldn’t stop laughing at the burning hair. The majority of us have had that happen (sometimes more than once) But no Mayiritsa after the Anastasi?

  • Nicholas A. Pappas

    I’m 53 years old (second generation Greek American) and I cried tears of joy after reading your expose. Bravo!

  • Gretchen don’t wilson

    Gretchen wilson when

  • Gretchen don’t wilson

    Gretchen wilson when

  • stella antos

    thank you for this greatarticle on “MY EASTER”

  • Gretchen wilson pics

    Gretchen wilson videos

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  • Jeff Mikres (Makris)

    As a Christian (born again) not going to Greek churches I am envious of the reverence there is in the Greek and Catholic churches that is missing in the Protestant churches.

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