This time of the year is when I am at my most “Greek”. Easter is steeped in tradition for us, and I love sharing our culture with friends. I was born in Australia but my parents made sure that the traditions brought down from the Northern Hemisphere were kept alive and are now so part of my fabric.
This year Greek Easter is on at the same time as “Western Easter” if that’s what you want to call it. In a nutshell Greek Easter is calculated using the Julian calendar not the Gregorian calendar and it must be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox. (I had to look this up). Very technical.
I have to say it’s a lot easier when Greek Easter is on at the same time as most people. If you are like me and live in a blended family, then you only do the Easter extravaganza once!
Fasting is one of the aspects to the lead up to Easter. I remember as a teenager going to a very Aussie school in Sydney (think Puberty Blues) and having to fast for Easter. Now, let me tell you that in the 70’s this was considered very strange! There were times that I would forget that I was fasting and go and order a sausage roll from the canteen, get halfway through it, spit it out and wonder why everyone was staring. I would then proceed to be absolutely guilt stricken that meat touched my lips. Mum never knew this and when she reads this today……..sorry mum. I have to put in a little footnote here…. I am not overly religious but because I am writing about Greek Easter, I guess I have to write about the symbolism of why we do certain things. I always remember that old saying don’t bring up religion or politics at a dinner party or on a blog!
In Greece on Great Thursday, it is the day most Greeks dye their eggs and they are usually red (symbolizing the blood of Christ. ) No pastels to be seen!
Let the Dyeing begin......
Make sure your eggs are cleaned and free range if possible. I always add a few extra in case some crack. My girls have been very good this year and I have copious eggs.
I place my eggs in a bowl with some hot water (not boiling) for 10 minutes or so to acclimatise them to the boiling process. I then place them in a pan and cover the eggs with warm water .
Dissolve the dye in 1 cup of water. Mix well.
Just before you remove from heat add one cup of vinegar. This sets the dye.
Remove the eggs from the dye and let cool.
Then shine them up with a cloth that has been dipped in oil.
Thats it! Easy as!
They are now ready for our Easter Sunday dinner. Where we will do whats called (tsougrisma), meaning to clink together. Or Greek egg fighting. Hold your egg in your fist as though your fist were an egg cup.
You will want to choose which side you want facing up first.
Tops will smash tops and bottoms will smash bottoms.
Next, decide who will try to smash the other's egg first.
Whilst saying "Christos Anesti" (Christ has risen)... The other replies, "Alithos Anesti: (Indeed he has risen).
It gets very competitive! Whoever has the strongest egg has good fortune throughout the year. This is usually eaten before the meal.
TSOUREKI - GREEK EASTER BREAD
Tsoureki is a staple at any Greek easter. Tsoureki is a sweet, brioche like bread. It smells divine!
Traditional sweet biscuit eaten on Easter Sunday in Greece. I have so many memories of helping my mum bake trays and trays of these biscuits. They are subtly perfumed and I enjoy dunking them in my coffee at this time of the year. Greek women visit each others homes and swap Koulouria hence why you have to make lots. They can get very critical of each others Koulouria (bit of a competition).
Mortar and pestle the spices.......the smell is divine!
Got a bit tired kneading and had my husband step in. Good baking hands!
Roll dough into long sausage shape and twist into shapes. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake at 175 deg c. for 15 minutes approx. Cool on wire racks.
You should smell the kitchen! Divine. Make sure there are plenty of taste tests. I am up to about 10! Quality control.....is imperative.
This post by no means covers the vast and complex Greek Orthodox Easter traditions but instead gives people a general idea of this special celebration.
Happy Easter everyone. Kalo Pascha!
Do you enjoy traditions? Does tradition come in many forms? More importantly what's your tradition?