This year our Greek Easter was the same time as the Catholic. The holiday is already gone but we don’t stop wishing everyone Christos Anesti (Christ is Risen) and Hronia Polla (meaning = many years) till Holy Pentecost which occurs 50 days after Easter Sunday.
While it feels great when Greek Easter is the same time as the Catholic, it does have its ups and downs. The stores are busier, you can’t find everything you need, and the lines at the checkouts are atrocious. However, I can’t help but feel this exhilaration when our Easter is the same time as the Catholic. The Greek church is full of people during the Greek Holy Week, and especially on our Good Friday (we don’t call it Good Friday; in Greece, and in Greek our Good Friday is called Great and Holy Friday – but that’s for another post).
After we celebrate our Easter Sunday, by stuffing ourselves with lamb (a recipe post for another time), meatballs (link), tzatziki sauce (link), tsourekia and red colored egg, then we try to detox the following few days. In Greece, while life goes on the same way as before the holidays, the good wishes continue till Holy Pentecost. When you meet or call someone you know, or when you enter a store to buy something, you wish them Christos Anesti (Christ is Risen), and they respond with Alithos Anesti (He is truly Risen). Or with the most common wish Hronia Polla (many years).
There are a few holidays after Easter that people celebrate. The Sunday after Easter is the Sunday of Thomas which commemorates the appearance of Jesus to his disciples eight days after his resurrection. When Jesus first appeared to his disciples after His resurrection and said: “Peace be with you”, Thomas was not present and did not believe it. Eight days later, the Sunday after Easter, the disciples gathered again while Thomas was present. That’s when Jesus appeared once more and Thomas believed and said: “My Lord, my God”. Anyone who is named Thomas, or Tom, even the female version of Thomas which is Thomai (pronounced: Tho-ma-eé) celebrates his/her name day on this day. That’s when we wish them “Hronia Polla”.
The other holiday that is celebrated after Easter is St. George’s. It is on April 23rd but if it falls during our Greek Holy Week, the celebratory day is moved to Easter Monday. St. George was a Christian martyr, but he is also depicted in icons as the dragon slayer. Anyone named Georgios (the Greek name for George), George, Georgina, Georgia, will be celebrating their name day. Even though St. George’s day is not a public holiday in Greece, if it’s celebrated on Easter Monday, it’s considered a holiday. This year, St. George’s day falls on Sunday April 23rd, which is also the Sunday of Thomas. There will be many homes in Greece who will be celebrating.
Since my brother was named George, and later on my father in law, I always, in a way, felt St. George’s day as a holiday. I used to send them a card and in later years called them and wished them Hronia Polla.
While I was growing up, my mother made preparations for my brother’s name day. Relatives and friends would come and visit, to wish him Hronia Polla. On many occasions my mother ended up making tsourekia (link) and koulourakia (link) again, since we basically devoured them. Along with tsourekia and koulourakia she’d offer the chocolate sweets that you’d find at the local zaharoplasteio (za-ha-ro-pla-steéo)-sweet shops- that carry everything from chocolate sweets, to beautiful decorated cakes, ice cream, and anything you heart desires. I haven’t found a sweet shop here in the States that’s anything like the sweet shops in Greece.
The next big religious holiday is Holy Pentecost. This is a three day holiday in Greece. Holy Pentecost is celebrated each year on the 50th day after Easter Sunday. Pentecost comes from the Greek word Pentikosti (Pe-nti-ko-steé) which means 50. It’s the day the Holy Spirit appeared to the Apostles while they were gathered around in one room. After the appearance of the Holy Spirit, tongues of fire sat upon each of the Apostles thus giving them the ability to speak in different languages. There are many icons depicting this. And so it begins the teachings of the Gospel and Jesus work as we know it nowadays.
When Holy Pentecost is over, we stop wishing everyone Hronia Polla, or Christos Anesti. The Easter or Pascha (Pa-ska, as it is called in Greek) season is over.
Hronia Polla and Christos Anesti!