Holding the white candles of Pascha, millions of Greeks flocked to churches short before midnight Saturday to celebrate Jesus Resurrection. They love to keep the centuries-old tradition even though they are not devoted faithful or even atheists.
The majority of people go to church five minutes before midnight and leave five minutes after. They want to be part of the magic moment, to share the Holy Fire with each other, to join the priest and all together to chant:
Χριστὸς ἀνέστη ἐκ νεκρῶν Christ is risen from the dead
θανάτῳ θάνατον πατήσας having beaten Death by death
καὶ τοῖς ἐν τοῖς μνήμασι and to those in the graves.
ζωὴν χαρισάμενος having given the gift of life
The bells ring in joy, the people raise the candles and kiss each other, the fireworks lighten up the sky.
In one suburb of Athens, in Neos Kosmos, there has been a tradition in the last years, to throw …Molotov cocktail bombs instead of fireworks!
A few minutes before the joyful message that Christ has Risen from the Dead, the church lights go out and the Priest exits the Sanctuary with the Holy Fire.
The priests share the Light with the faithful, chanting:
Δεύτε λάβετε φως Come receive the light
εκ του ανεσπέρου φωτὸς from the unwaning light
και δοξάσατε Χριστὸν τὸν αναστάντα εκ νεκρών and glorify Christ, who has risen from the dead…
The Holy Fire arrived in Athens with a special flight from Jerusalem, earlier on Saturday, following the Miracle Ceremony of the Holy Fire
in the Church of Holy Sepulchre.
From the Athens Airport, the Holy Fire is being distributed by air, land or sea to churches all over the country. The Holy Light is being received with honors as if it was a state leader.
Video: Holy Fire arriving at the military airport of Larissa, Central Greece.
The priests return to the church and continue the Sermon of Pascha until 2 o’ clock in the morning or later. Some faithful also attend, especially those who want to have the Holy Communion.
Sunday morning, those who can afford in terms of money and space the real Greek Easter tradition wake up early and start the open fire for roasted Easter Lamb and Kokoretsi.
The rest may just push a tray full of young goat and potatoes to the oven or grill lamb chops.
The traditional Greek Easter Lunch extends over several hours around the full loaded table with families, relatives and friends, music, dance and wine.
That’s the tradition. In modern times, though, in urban environment, in Greece of the economic crisis, hundreds will have to get along with a very frugal Easter Sunday meal, if at all…
Χριστός Ανέστη! Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen!
Χρόνια Πολλά! Chronia Polla! Many Happy Years!
PS Many were surprised to hear Archbishop of Athens, Ieronymos, to chant the first strophe of the National Anthem between the first and the second Christos Anesti outside the Metropolis of Athens. New customs of the Greek Orthodox Church?