Celebrate Easter in Municipality of Platanias!
Easter celebrations last for two weeks : from the Sunday before Easter ( “Palm tree” Sunday- the name coming from the branches waved by the people of Jerusalem as they welcomed Christ at his triumphant entrance into the city ) until the Sunday after Easter (called “Thomas” Sunday- named after the apostle Thomas who couldn’t believe in the Resurrection of Christ until he touched the marks made by the nails driven in his palms in order to crucify him.)
The first of these two weeks is Holy Week ( or “Big” Week as it is called locally, in order to show its significance) This is the week of the suffering of Christ, the tortures he went through and the crucifixion . All during this week Christians fast and attend all church ceremonies. It is considered a period of mourning and sadness.
The second week is called “Easter Week” and it is one of feasting and celebrations.
Easter is a mobile holiday . The Greek Orthodox celebrate it exactly one week after the Catholics .
EASTER TRADITIONS for the HOLY WEEK
There is a special ceremony held in local churches every day of the Holy week, a ceremony relating the life of Christ and the tortures he suffered for the sake of humanity.
Traditions of Holy Thursday :
In the evening ceremony held in church on this day , the priest reads twelve different extracts of the four Gospels ( this is why this ceremony is also known as “ the twelve Gospels” ).
On this same day in every home they make Easter cookies (“koulourakia”) and buns (“tsourekia”).
Another tradition of the day is the dying of eggs – originally red but , in recent years, various bright colours – yellow, blue, green etc.
Red Easter eggs :
This is one of the most significant Easter traditions. The red eggs symbolize Christ’s blood which was shed on the cross.The cracking of Easter eggs :
This symbolizes the resurrection of Christ , since the egg is the symbol of life and creation. When the shell cracks a new life comes out of the egg in the form of a little chick. In the same way, the cracking of the Easter egg is the “cracking” of Christ’s tomb and the beginning of a new life through his resurrection.
Traditions of Holy Friday :
THE EPITAPH ( the funeral)
The Epitaph : decorations and rites:
The devout rites held on this day every year require special preparations.
The ceremonial is always very special and it was like a competition among the nearby parishes as to who creates the most impressive epitaph and the most beautifully decorated one.
Its form and shape is not incidental. The top part is a symbol of the heavens and the bottom one is that of earth.
The Crown and the flowers :
Tradition has it that women used to stay up all night decorating the wooden- carved structure of the epitaph with flowers of every colour and scent.
They would use mainly various aromatic wild flowers along with cultivated ones gathered by children from gardens or surrounding fields : anemones, daisies, white, purple, yellow and blue wild flowers like roses, lilies, orange blossoms, violets, pansies, lilacs and carnations.
God’s Grace and healing :
Up to very recent years it was traditional for everyone to walk under the Epitaph in order to obtain the Grace of God. In Crete the tradition lives on and it is believed that, if naughty children do this three times , their behaviour is certain to improve. If people suffering from serious diseases do it , they will be cured.
“Blessed” Flowers :
At the end of the Epitaph ceremony people used to take the flowers off it and, since they were considered “blessed”, they took them home and placed them at the shrine with the holy icons.
Women used to make lucky charms with them and gave them to their men who travelled and worked as sailors. They were also used for curing headaches.
In Crete they were widely used in the making of home-made bread. The yeast used in this process was believed to gradually become “weaker” and less effective. One way to renew its strength was with these “blessed” flowers.
So, on Holy Friday, when the priest would read the first extract from the Gospel , people believed that “the renewal of the yeast” was taking place.
Traditions of the Holy Sabbath (Saturday) :
These big Easter candles are given as gifts to children in order to light them at the Holy Saturday ceremony for the Resurrection. They are colourful and nicely decorated either with toys or flowers. The form, colour and decoration of the candle was in direct proportion to the child’s age and sex. It was customary in quite recent years for each child to make and decorate his own candle at home. Now the custom is that a godfather or godmother brings the candle as a gift.
Holy Saturday is the evening of the Resurrection. At twelve o’clock , the priest gives out the “Holy Light” singing “Christ has risen” . The people present light their Easter candles and greet each other saying “Christ has risen” or responding “Indeed he has risen”. In many areas there are firecrackers and fireworks. This is Resurrection Day – a day for happiness and lively celebrations. No more fasting –when they come back home there is a feast (they eat the traditional “magiritsa” and crack their Easter eggs.)
Easter Sunday :
This day marks the end of Lent and fasting. It is a day for feasting , singing, dancing and being happy. There are many family gatherings – often out in the open- with traditional food and drink and , very often, a lamb roasting on the spit .
The Easter Lamb :
Lambs are the most recognizable Easter symbols as they symbolize Christ himself. John the Baptist referred to Christ as “the Lamb of God who would rid people of their sins”.
The lamb is a legendary symbol , a symbol of innocence and purity mainly on a spiritual level, so, when it is eaten by people it enables them to take part in this purity and innocence.
Before the Resurrection ceremony , all the children of the village gather wood and all kinds of flammable materials and heap them up in the church yard . On the day before , they make a “dummy” wearing a ragged suit , and they hang this on the top of the pile of wood they have made. This represents Judas , the apostle- betrayer of Christ. When the priest chants “ Christ has risen” they set fire to the heap of wood , making a huge bonfire which lights up the whole area along with the fireworks and the church bells ringing wildly !