Easter celebration in Athens, 1/2
Easter celebration in Athens
Even though most of Greeks are heading to their villages on countryside for Easter, you should enjoy Easter celebration in Athens. Either your plane stuck or you chose this. Either way, you will enjoy it the most. Trust me on that, because there is no reason to do not experience Easter like a true Greek.
Even if you are not Christian, you will definitely enjoy the calm atmosphere of customs for the Holy Week. A prerequisite for joining this holy atmosphere is to attend liturgies. Every day has different meaning and different psalms.
The Holy Week
- Great-Holy Monday : celebration of Joseph of Pangalos (son of Jacob) mentioned in the Old Testament & the barren fig tree, which Christ cursed and dried up with one of His words.
- Great-Holy Tuesday : parable of the Ten Virgins that symbolizes faith and foresight.
- Great-Holy Wednesday / Spy Wednesday : the betrayal of Jesus & in the memory of the sinful woman, who repented, believed in Christ and anointed His feet with myrrh.
- Great-Holy Thursday / Maundy Thursday : the commemoration of the Mystical or Last Supper.
- Great-Holy Friday / Good Friday : the Passion of Jesus Christ (Lord’s Pasion) – crucifixion and the Epitaph.
- Great-Holy Saturday : Christ’s rest in death.
- Great-Holy Sunday / Easter Sunday: the day of His resurrection from death.*
And of course, every day the Greek television has films related to Holy Week like: The 10 Commandments, The Jesus of Nazareth, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Passion of the Christ, Son of God, The Last Temptation of Christ and others like: Mary Magdalene, Quo Vadis, Noah, Ben-Hur and Barabbas. In the same vain, I will not forget the unforgettable miniseries The Jesus of Nazareth directed by Franco Zeffirelli with Robert Powell as Jesus.
So, the most ‘popular’ liturgies are on Holy Friday with The Epitaph and on Holy Saturday with The Anastasis – Resurrection.
From 19:00 to 21:00 every church starts a funerary procession, The Epitaphios. The Epitaph procession honors the memory of the deceased Christ with sad psalms and beige lightened candles from actual cerium-wax (you will find them inside every church). The wooden Epitaph has black-purple and white ribbons along with purple and white flowers. Τhe procession of worshippers goes around the church and the near neighborhoods by feet, while the bell rings mournfully and the priest chants. Among them, there are few young girls representing the myrrh-bearing women. Moreover, everyone wears hazy dark colors, like black and navy blue and purple. Furthermore, at the end of this ritual that ends back at the church again, you can kiss the icon that symbolizes Christ’s body among the purple flowers.
Tip: The younger kids are holding small paper or iron lanterns and not beige candles.
Advice: You can choose to attend to a church that also has instrument band or large choir to chant the psalms.
On Holy Saturday the liturgy begins at 23:00-23:30 and you can hold a white candle as per custom (or any other color you want). To experience The Anastasi (Resurrection) go to church before midnight. At midnight, the priest will chant alone the Christos Anesti (Christ has risen) hymn at the first time. The 2nd time the congregation will follow and chant with him passing by the holy flame from Jerusalem. When someone says Christos Anesti then you have to answer back Alithos Anesti, which means Indeed, He has risen. The bells are knocking jovially and you will see many fireworks on the sky.
Immediately after the Resurrection Ceremony, Orthros and the Resurrection Divine Liturgy are celebrated on Easter Sunday until 02:00-03:00 early morning. If you choose to attend until the end, in order to receive the Holy Communion, you will see the priest to bless grapes and bread and fruits and many more. Of course, he will bless some red eggs which will hare with the worshippers after the end of the liturgy.
Tip: On this happy day try to wear red and white clothes.
Easter celebration in Athens has many great options to embrace the culture through these religion customs.
Below I will list you few churches around the center of Athens where you could choose to go for Easter celebration in Athens.
Churches for Holy Saturday night
- Agios Georgios / St. George on Lycabettus Hill is my personal favorite for Holy Saturday night. Why is this? Because you can see all these pyrotechnic fireworks from parishes all around Athens at midnight. (Check the photo above).
- Although, if you do not like fireworks, then Metohi tou Panagiou Tafou / Dependency of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Plaka is more appropriate for you. Here the Holy Light arrives even before goes to the Diocesan Church. At 20:00 and the Patriarch light 33 candles. Moreover, here you will enjoy the ceremonial solemn that wanders at the atmosphere.
- If you want to spend your night under the Acropolis hill, then choose to attend at Agios Nikolaos / St. Nicholas in Plaka, which is inside Anafiotica district. The bell of this church was the first that rang in 1833 after our independence from the ottomans.
Churches for Holy Friday night
- Panagia / Holy Virgin Kapnikarea at Ermou Street. Kapnikarea got this name because it was once burned. It is a small graphical church from 11th century (1050AD) with spectacular murals painted by Fotis Kondoglou.
- Agia Irini / St. Irene in Aiolou Street. This one is my favorite for Holy Friday, because it has the best Greek-Byzantine choir for the funeral psalms to hear.
*On Easter Sunday afternoon, the Vespers of Love are celebrated, during which the Gospel is read in various languages.
Keep up for my next article here, where we will see Easter customs about food like: 40 painted eggs on Holy Thursday, preparation of tsoureki sweet brioche bread and magiritsa soup to eat after Τhe Resurrection.
Also read here for more Easter-Pascha phrases.