Sarakosti, the Great Lent
The Easter season in Rhodes is an especially significant time to visit for those who would like to experience in Greek Orthodox traditions. The Great Lent period begins with Clean Monday, which falls seven weeks before Easter Sunday. This period, known as “Sarakosti,” is a time of fasting and spiritual reflection for the faithful.
During Greek Orthodox Lent, there are several dietary restrictions that the faithful must adhere to. Foods that come from animals with red blood, such as red meats, poultry, milk, and eggs, are not allowed, as well as fish and seafood with backbones. Olive oil and wine are also restricted, and the number of meals each day is limited.
Despite these restrictions, Lenten dishes are anything but boring. In fact, the Greek Orthodox diet leans heavily toward vegetarianism, resulting in a plethora of delicious and creative dishes that meet the Lenten requirements. Clean Monday is one of the most exciting celebrations of the season, with friends and families often gathering together for picnics in the countryside and enjoying all sorts of appropriate delicacies. The festive atmosphere is infectious, and it's a great way to experience Greek culture and tradition firsthand.
Easter in Rhodes is a vibrant and exciting time, and Clean Monday is a day of particular significance. Aside from feasting on traditional Lenten dishes with friends and family, locals and visitors alike participate in another beloved tradition: flying kites!
Handcrafted kites take center stage on this day, adding to the already colorful atmosphere of the holiday. If the weather is fair, the skies become dotted with kites of all shapes and colors, and it's a sight to behold! In fact, it's not uncommon for people to place bets on whose kite will climb the highest in the sky. It's a fun and exhilarating way to celebrate Clean Monday and experience Greek culture at its finest.
Easter is a perfect time for Spring Cleaning
Springtime in Greece is more than just a time for Lenten fasting and reflection. It's also a time for new beginnings, and that means it's the perfect time for spring cleaning!
During Lent, many people take the opportunity to give their homes a fresh start. Walls are given a fresh coat of whitewash or paint, and inside, cupboards, closets, and drawers are thoroughly cleaned and organized. It's the perfect time to declutter and refresh your living space, while also getting into the spirit of the season.
Easter finally arrives
If you're lucky enough to be in Rhodes and Greece during Easter week, you're in for a truly unforgettable experience. The week kicks off with "The Big Week" or Megali Evdomada, which begins with "Big Monday" (Megali Deftera) and culminates on "Big Saturday" (Megalo Savvato) at midnight with the celebration of Christ's Resurrection.
One of the most poignant moments of the week is on Big Friday (Megali Paraskeví), the saddest day of the year for Orthodox Christians. The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross (apokathílosi) and placed in a white sheet behind the Holy Table (Agía Trápeza). The Epitáfios, a gold-embroidered cloth with the body of Jesus, is placed on the wooden coffin and carried through the church and its parish by the pastor and the faithful. One of the most iconic walks in Rhodes is at the church of Agios Fanourios in the Medieval Town. The atmosphere is somber and reflective, with the sound of bells and the scent of church incense filling the air.
On Easter Saturday (Big Saturday - Megalo Savvato), the faithful rise early to participate in the holy communion and receive the bread and wine, which symbolize the body and blood of Jesus. In the evening, they gather again, holding traditional candles decorated with flowers and wait for the big moment. As soon as the verse "Défte lávete fós" ("Come and take light") is sung, the Holy Light is passed on to the faithful by the pastor until all the candles are lit. At midnight, the psalm announces the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the atmosphere becomes joyous and celebratory.
As the bells ring, fireworks light up the sky, and people hug and kiss, congratulating each other by saying "Christós Anésti!" (Jesus is risen) and answering "Alithós Anésti!" (He is truly risen). After the wishes, most people go home to enjoy the first meat dish after a long Lent. The traditional Easter soup "Magirítsa" is a popular dish, made from lamb offal, aromatic herbs, and a lemon sauce. It's a truly unforgettable experience that celebrates the rich culture and traditions of Greece.
Why is Greek Easter on a different date than Western Easter?
For those wondering why Greek Easter and Western Easter are only sometimes celebrated on the same day, here is the answer.
The day for Greek Easter is governed by these three main conditions:
- It is based on the Julian calendar, in contrast to Western Easter, which uses the Gregorian calendar for calculation;
- It has to be after the Jewish holiday of Passover;
- It has to be on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which for this purpose is fixed as March 21st, but which may occur on the 20th or 22nd.
So, in short, the basic reason for the difference between the two Easters is that "Western" Easter uses a different set of calculations based on the current Gregorian calendar instead of the ancient Julian one. Under the Gregorian system, Easter can actually be in March, something that can not happen with the Julian-based method of calculating Easter.