The period before and after Easter is also associated with the folk tradition throughout the country. There are many traditions that last. Some have disappeared, but these days revive, even if the participation is not great.
Great and Holy Monday
Great and Holy Monday is dedicated to Joseph, the most beloved son of Jacob, whom his siblings sold to merchants from Egypt. On that day, the church reads the parable of the cursing of the fig tree from the Gospel of Matthew.
On Holy Monday the preparations for the Easter celebration in all households begin all around Greece. In the villages, even today, they whitewash the yards with lime and they paint the pots red.
Great and Holy Tuesday
On Great and Holy Tuesday, the church reads the Parable of the Ten Virgins, while in the evening on Vespers the Hymn of Saint Kassiani is chanted. This day is devoted to the cleaning of the house.
In some parts of Greece, on Holy Tuesday, cookies and brioches are made, a custom, however, that usually takes place on Holy Thursday.
In Thassos the ancient custom “April rain” revives, where they dance folklore dances.
In Ierissos, Halkidiki, they have the custom of “The threshing floor of the young man.” After the memorial service and the festive, the elders start dancing. All the villagers, one after the other, get into the circle dance, which is often four hundred meters long. They sing and dance all the Easter songs and conclude with the “Kangelefto” dance, which is the representation of the slaughter of 400 people from Ierissos by the Turks during the revolution of 1821. During the festive, coffee is offered, which has been boiled in a large cauldron, as well as brioches and eggs.
Great and Holy Wednesday
On Holy Wednesday, the anointing of Jesus by a sinful woman is read, during which he speaks of his coming death.
On the afternoon or evening of Great and Holy Wednesday, the Sacrament or Mystery of Holy Unction is conducted.
In some regions of Greece, women go to the Holy Unction with a tureen full of sour. In there, they fix three candles, which burn upon the performance of the Mystery. This flour is used to make the Easter brioches the following day.
In times past, in Athens, religious women went from house to house and gathered flour, which they knead without leaven. The priest touched the Cross with the Timber Wood on the dough and the dough rose. This would be the leaven of the year.
Great and Holy Thursday
On Holy Thursday, Divine Drama moves towards its climax. This is the day of the Last Supper, where Jesus communes his disciples by giving them a piece of bread that symbolizes his body and wine that symbolizes his blood. The Twelve Gospels are chanted in the evening and the procession of the Cross with Jesus follows in the church. After the 12 Gospels are finished, girls commence to decorate the Epitaph.
The main custom of the Holy Thursday is to paint the eggs red and to knead the brioches. This day, housewives do not do the laundry or other household chores.
In Lemnos, the first Easter egg is of the Virgin Mary and it is placed in the iconostasis.
In Sifnos, women make the so-called “Birds of Easter”, which are buns in various shapes of birds or animals, decorated with red eggs.
In Western Macedonia, women spread red sails on their balconies, and the families who are in mourning do not paint the eggs red but some other color.
In Chania they make a dummy of Judah from wood, which they walk around the village and strike it.
Great and Holy Friday
Great Friday represents the trial of Jesus by Pontius Pilate, his martyrdom towards Calvary and his Crucifixion. It is the Day of Jesus Christ’s Passion. In the evening, is the Epitaph procession, while the bells knell all day.
In some parts of Greece, the flowers of the Epitaph are kept by the believers, after the procession, because they are considered miraculous. For the believers, the fast of the day is very strict and even oil is prohibited, while the tradition forbids any work this day.
In Crete, on Good Friday, there is a tradition were the priest mentions in the church, before the Epitaph procession, the names of all the deceased members of each family in the village, even those who have passed away several generations before.
*The article was originally published in Greek in ikivotos.gr