In the Greek Orthodox calendar Easter or Paska as they call it is the most important part of the year. Not only does it commemorate Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, but it also signifies a new beginning. The Greek orthodox Church uses the Gregorian Calendar rather than the Julian Calendar that we use today so this being the case Greek Easter often falls on a different date to ours. The Greek Easter starts in much the same way as ours with lent lasting 40 days and nights as do we, the devout don’t eat meat during this period and for the week leading up to Good Friday don’t even eat fish.
The services that we went to were at Greek Easter, the first was on Good Friday evening and is a ceremony of flowers the church is decorated and there is a dias that is bedecked with flowers and everybody processes around while being blessed by the Papas (priest). The second service was on Easter Saturday evening and this service is attended by everybody from Granny to new born babes in arms. This service to welcome the resurrection, Christos Anesti, in Greek meaning that Jesus resurrected. There is a candle burning on the alter the flame that lit it having been carried from Jerusalem. At midnight the priest brings the flame outside and declares “Christos Anesti” every body present then lights their own candle from the priest’s flame or a flame from it, and the flame is processed around the building and the smoke from the candle is used to make the sign of the cross over the main door, for everybody else they have to take their flame home and do the same over the main entrance to their home or business, this is to ward off evil for the coming year. The candle then being allowed to burn out.
On arrival home the feasting to celebrate the resurrection begins a common meal for this time is a dish called Spetcify (a sausage stew). Early the next morning the young men of the family will light the fire and set up the spit to cook a Goat or Lamb, everybody and anybody is welcome to join in and have some food. (from my own experience a walk around the village will see you well fed and half drunk without trying). Another custom is the giving of red eggs to symbolise the drops of Christ’s blood everybody has one and they the bang them together with their neighbour and the last one uncracked is the winner (conker style). This feasting will carry on until Easter Monday morning.
The reason that we chose the Greek community in Weston for our first Community Gallery project, is that part of the HLF brief was to be involved with the community, as the Greeks are the largest ethnic group in Weston it was a good opportunity to show that they do far more in the community than just run the Pier. All of the people that we dealt with were very happy and grateful to engage with us. As you may know there is a Greek school in Weston, the Greek school authorities were looking to close some schools in England and Weston was on the short list when the inspector came and learned of the project that they were engaged in with us, as well as thinking it was a fantastic project and why weren’t more Greek schools doing similar things in their communities, it was a very big tick in the keep it open box. A win win I do believe.
Ever wish you hadn’t asked.