A Greek Easter breakdown: Christos Anesti… Christo Ineedsti… Christ, I need spanikopita.
I started counting down the days for this upcoming Sunday– Greek Easter Sunday– since the Monday after last year’s. If you’re Greek, (and arguably, even if you’re not) this holiday trumps any other. It’s not because you’re cliché, it’s just because you know how its done. Greek Easter is rightfully on a different Sunday than “American Easter”; it is louder, more filling, and, just like good wine, it gets better with age. (Unless, of course, your Pateras already started spiking your baby bottle with Greek liquor to put you to sleep.)
Yes, most of the stereotypes from My Big Fat Greek Wedding are true. No, I’m not joking. Watching that movie is a safe bet to getting a general understanding of us Greeks. As for getting the lay of the land for Greek Easter, there are definitely 15 points that help to understand how it is the best holiday:
1. The eggs (which are strictly dyed red) are used for a game called tsougrisma. When you challenge another to play, you approach them, bang your egg on theirs, and shout, “Christos Anesti!” (meaning “Christ has risen”). Your opponent says, “Alithos Anesti!” (meaning “indeed he has risen”). From there, your fate is anxiously determined; the person with their egg un-cracked is the winner, receiving good luck for the rest of the year, while the other is forever shunned from Yiayia. Just kidding, Yiayia won’t ever be fully pleased with you.
2. There are endless amounts of tsoureki, a sweet bread that is so good, you forget the pain in your legs from standing for an-hour-past-dead at church that morning. All the butter. All the carbs.
3. The minute (not kidding, literally the minute) church lets out Sunday morning, the celebratory buffet of endless meats, cheeses, and desserts start.
4. Bonding over bias. You constantly hear Christian/Catholic Easter referred to as “American Easter”, and your drunken theo (uncle) will rant about how Greek Easter is superior. The candy from “American Easter” is on sale, so that’s already a good start.
5. Yiayia and Papou (your grandma and grandpa) give you money because “Christ has risen”. Yes, more so because they have had one too many shots of ouzo and are feeling generous, but still. Although the money is a perk, their choppy English and adorable Greek accents are priceless.
6. So. Much. Food. Your relatives always tell you that you look too skinny, no matter how small or plump you actually are. The helpings don’t stop coming until you are sobbing into your plate of pastitio. “Koukla, more.”- Every Greek relative, ever.
7. Being reminded of your growth since last Easter. When you hit a certain age (really that in-between awkward stage when your Old Navy jeans come up too short on your ankles, but the next size up/down doesn’t fit you in the waist), you are forced to join the women in the kitchen. As you help prepare, you immediately curse time passing so quickly as the conversations further.
8. The kids’ table is far from lame. The beauty of this dining discrimination is that the group you’ve been with will be same group you eat with every Easter… forever. The seating arrangments are kind of like being in the middle school cafeteria, except you don’t have to pretend to like them… you are forced to.
9. Greek Easter serves as a guaranteed reunion for those who live too far away to regularly visit. Family is everything for Greeks. The first best friends you ever made are your cousins– especially, your first cousins. Yes, there are about thirty ‘Nicolas’s, twenty ‘Peter’s and ten ‘Maria’s, but you wouldn’t have it any other way. And yes, a big chunk of us are called the same thing. We are all named after our grandparents, who are named after saints… (and there are only so many to go around.) Basically, we are only called something Jesus would call us.
10. “Are you still single, Koukla?” Just when you think your pre-pubescent cheeks had been tugged and squeezed not so long ago by Thea, you constantly are shamed (by everyone) throughout the whole holiday for not being wifed up yet. No Yiayia, I am only twenty, and currently having a love affair with this baklava.
…and they pray for your soul… both to your face and behind your back.
11. “Is he a Greek boy?” When you are in a relationship, (Opa!) bringing your significant other to this holiday is a seriously bold move. (If they aren’t Greek, “oh po po po” save yourself the trouble and don’t even tell anyone you’re seeing someone.) But hey, if the beau doesn’t run after meeting your crazy family, he’s a keeper.
12. Olive oil, oregano, and lemon. You would be surprised what and how many dishes can be made from these staple ingredients. No Thea, I won’t forget about the butter.
13. Never ending family wisdom. Your older female relatives will give you life advice, and no matter what they tell you, you have to just nod in between bites. Greek women, especially Yiayia, are never wrong.
14. The Theos and Pappous man the lamb spit. No exceptions. Men cooking for you until you puke? If only everyday was Easter…
15. …But that dessert doe. Given that Greeks are the most sensible people, they wouldn’t voluntarily do such a thing as “diet”. Passing up something delicious is only on the agenda when its time for lent. This is mainly because Greeks grew up with the best foods, and know what they’d be missing. At the Easter Buffet there aren’t only those butter cookies topped with powder sugar, but there are galaktobourikos, which are filo dough pastries drizzled with syrup and filled with a creamy custard inside. Along with about twenty other diabetes-inducing desserts, it’s all done right, no matter what you indulge in.
There is no better holiday than Greek Easter to capture the “life is short, so live it” motto. The Greeks celebrate that in the only way they know how: big, loud, and with the people they love. How could you not want a big fat Greek family?