Lent, Carnival and Easter
Tradition and religion go hand in hand. And in Athens, you don’t have to be of a particular religion to partake in the many colorful and delicious traditions that accompany Greek Orthodox Easter. From the special Lenten and Easter dishes, masquerade parties and sweets and festive family and friend gatherings, there are ways to enjoy this time without even being Greek.
Here are some tips on what to do when in Athens during Lent and Easter:
- Pick a costume or a fancy mask and attend a masquerade party. The pre-season Easter celebrations begin about two months prior with Carnival, Mardi Gras Apokria*. Many bars and clubs host parties during Carnival time. Elaborate street parades take place in several of Athens’ squares, the most festive in Plaka and the municipality of Mochato. The roots of the Greek Carnival costumes can be traced back to the wine God Dionysus. In the past, the festive atmosphere was created by groups of masqueraded people who roamed the streets at night, singing satirical songs.
- Go fly a kite. The Monday after the big Carnival on Sunday is Clean Monday or Ash Monday the first day of Lent and is characterized by the tradition of flying kites.
- Enjoy the feast before the fast. The lent inauguration celebrations also feature a special annual menu of meatless dishes namely octopus, squid, shrimp, lagana (yeastless bread), fish roe dip tarama, semolina sweet, halva olives, pickled vegetables and other meat-free dishes.
- Attend or view the Epitaph procession in Plaka, where the candle-holding faithful come together from neighbouring churches to create a winding path of light on Good Friday.
- Enjoy a traditional Greek Easter Meal. If you have friends and they invite you, be sure to go. After midnight mass on Holy Saturday try the traditional magerista soup and try your luck in the traditional egg-cracking tradition*. Each person hits the dyed red hard-boiled egg of the other to see whose is the strongest.
- Try some traditional Easter sweets Intoxicating aromas of traditional Easter foods emanate from local bakeries and homes and fill the spring air. Must-try: Tsoureki (sweet easter bread); The cookies: melomakarona; kourabiedes; koulouria.
- Partake in the tradition of roasting of the lamb on the spit
- Dance. This is the time to put those folklore dancing lessons to work. Traditional dances known as dimotika (think Zorba the Greek and traditional Greek circle dancing popular at weddings) are often perfect after a bit of wine.
Apokria* -- the abstaining of meat Egg-cracking tradition* -- symbolizes the cracking of Christ from the Tomb on the Resurrection