Greek Easter, red eggs and other eating habits

olive trees in springtime

Easter holds a very special place in Greek hearts, it’s so important some Greeks would admit they love it more than Christmas. There are colourful eggs, tsoureki, Easter biscuits, spit-roast of lamb, decorated candles and resurrection, both spiritual and a very earthly one, spring is all around you.

Greek Orthodox Christianity has shaped Greek traditions for centuries and culinary customs, of course, follow suit. There is a long, 40-day period of fasting that starts on Clean Monday and culminates on Easter Sunday with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. The Easter lent, noted as the most important, it is not the only one. The calendar dictates a 40-day lent prior to Christmas and another 15-day lent prior to the celebration of the Dormition of the Mother of God (15th August) which constitute the biggest Orthodox Christian celebrations. My grandmas reverently keep the lent all of the above days, turning vegetarian three times a year, and a few more days spread through-out the calendar that I am afraid would take too long to recite here. Fasting is also integrated in every-day living with Wednesdays and Fridays going meat-free. Mum keeps to this and I have to admit, it is very handy for meal planning, I very often do it myself.

I cannot say with certainty how many of the younger generations keep to the fasting customs, although I know of a few that enjoy it. In general, we are mad about small handmade fireworks that crack and burst beneath our feet whilst at church on Holy Saturday and the Holy Friday hymns, if you are into Byzantine music. Still, the majority will fast on Holy Week, so one could say we collectively turn vegetarian for a week, trying to resist flesh temptations and dream of the Easter Sunday lamb on the spit. As @minouli7 very astutely tweeted this is our BC & AD, left and right respectively.

But let’s get back to Easter food. Saturday evening, just after the midnight mass the fast breaks and a very special soup is served on the family table, mayiritsa. Mayiritsa is very much like lamb fricasse only that it incorporates the inner parts of the lamb, sikotaria, which includes the lungs, heart, liver, kidneys and sweetbreads. So you actually buy a whole lamb, make soup on the Saturday and roast the rest on the Sunday.

Holy Thursday is also very special as it’s marked as the day of dying the eggs red, symbolising the blood of Jesus. We also make tsoureki & Easter biscuits on this day, yes there will soon be biscuits too! Meanwhile, this is what I normally do with the eggs.

eggs

Ingredients

  • 24 eggs
  • 1 sachet of red powdered dye (2 gr)
  • 100 ml wine vinegar
  • a bit of vegetable oil for polishing

Tip: a dye does very well what it is meant to do, so prepare your surfaces to not stain and also you might need to use gloves for your hands.

For the different type of food dyes, check this link.

traditional egg dye

What to do:

  1. Boil the eggs on low heat for approximately 20 minutes.

  2. Remove from the water and let them cool down.

  3. Dilute 2 gr of powdered dye in 100 ml of cold water

  4. In a large pot, add 100 ml wine vinegar, the dye solution you just made and mix.

  5. Place in the eggs and remove after 12 minutes.

  6. Once dry, pass them over with some kitchen towel dipped in a few drops of oil.

red eggs

Although there is no Easter egg hunt, we do have a very popular game with our red eggs: each dinner picks one and whilst exchanging wishes tries to crack the red boiled eggs. The winner is the one with the hardest boiled egg or actually the wooden egg, as we tend to be mischievous like this.

 Keep an eye out for those Easter biscuits, they will be coming soon.

with love from Athens

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3 thoughts on “Greek Easter, red eggs and other eating habits

  1. Frankie Beane says:

    It is interesting to see the way eggs are used for celebrations. The Chinese (at least the Cantonese) get eggs for their birthdays–they are either tea eggs or maybe red too. The Western tradition of colored eggs for Easter also has a religious basis. It is neat to learn about the traditions of other cultures.

    • Eugenia says:

      It is indeed very special. The coloured eggs from the Orthodox Christian point of view also represent resurrection/re-birth. Very interesting to know about the Chinese customs as well!

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