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Greek Orthodox customs to honor the dead on Good Friday

I find it always deeply touching how Greeks honor their dead before major holidays like Christmas and Easter. On Good Friday, the peak of the Passion Week, Greeks go to the cemeteries with the arms full of flowers to lay on the graves of their beloved ones. After washing the graves, they put the flowers in vases and burn incense. A moment of silence and reckon, a tear.

The faithful go then to the cemetery church to pay respect to the Epitaphios. They write the names of the deceased in little papers, the priest will later read them and pray for the dead.

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Vases full of flowers here, a tiny touch of color there. Even graves that look abandoned take suddenly color on the day when Jesus Christ is taken to the Grave.

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It is the private Cross for each family that has lost a beloved one.

What I find most interesting in the cult of honoring the dead is that Greeks feel the need to lay on the grave a symbol of the main two Orthodox Holy Days.

A symbol for Life to easy the personal grief: a red Easter Egg.

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A Santa or a small Christmas tree on Christmas.

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In Greek Orthodox faith, the peak of Good Friday ends with the procession of Epitaphios, where priests and believers take the icon of Christ in the Gave through the streets.

Epitaphios procession

Sometimes Epitaphios is decorated rich with expensive flowers


and sometimes is decorated modest – as it should be.

good friday epitaphios in church

Video: epitaphios Procession in Grevena

Video: Epitaphios procession in Tolo

The Passion Week is for the faithful a week of grief that ends in joy with the symbolic Resurrection of Christ.

But the grief for the loss of the deceased remains. Until time heals the wounds.

PS I wonder, whether there are similar customs in other cultures before major holy days.

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