Showing posts with label Pentecost. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pentecost. Show all posts

After Greek Easter holiday customs, traditions and celebrations

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!


Koulourkakia Portokaliou-Greek Easter Cookies

Koulourakia Portokaliou - Greek Easter cookies

These cookies are a very traditional treat for Greek Easter. But they are also good for any other occasion or even year round. In Greece while I was growing up, these cookies were only made during Easter to be eaten on Greek Easter Sunday and for the next 50 days until Holy Pentecost. Nowadays, the bakeries in Greece, sell these cookies year round and the locals buy them to offer them to company with an afternoon coffee.

I used to have these cookies for breakfast, dipping them in my milk, while I was growing up in Greece. They usually went quite fast. All of us in my family loved these cookies, and on occasion, my mother would have to bake another batch to offer to visitors while they came over for coffee.

I continue this tradition in my family as much as I can, making them during Greek Easter. They last for about 3 months, but in most cases, they are gone before the time is up. They are called Koulourakia portokaliou (pronounced = koo-loo-rάhk-yah por-toh-kahl-yoo) =  cookies with orange.


Makes 82 servings (approximately 0.5oz each)

½ lbs. butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp. grated orange peel
¼.cup orange juice
1 tbsp. baking powder
4 ¼ cups flour (keep the ¼ cup for kneading)
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. water
¼ cup slivered, raw almonds chopped

Bring the butter at room temperature. Don't melt it in the microwave or over the stove. For the cookies to come out well and be pliable, the butter needs to be at room temperature.

Save ¼ cup of the flour for kneading the dough later. Sift the rest of the flour with the baking powder.

In a stand-alone mixer, beat together the butter with the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well together. Add the orange rind and the orange juice. Beat well together. Add the flour and beat well. The dough will be a bit sticky. Remove it from the bowl and flour a clean surface with a little bit of the ¼ cup flour. Knead the dough with the remaining flour until the dough doesn't stick to your hands. Place the dough in a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Butter the cookie sheets with the 2 tbsp. butter. When the dough is cool, take about 1 inch balls with your fingers, and roll it out into a strand, fold it in half and twist it. Continue until all the dough is done. Mix together the egg yolk and water and brush the cookies. Sprinkle with the chopped almonds. Bake at 375 degree oven for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Cool and store in an airtight container. They can last up to 3 months.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 serving (16.0 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 63
Calories from Fat 27
Total Fat 3.0g
Saturated Fat 1.7g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 15mg
Sodium 21mg
Potassium 32mg
Total Carbohydrates 8.3g
Dietary Fiber 0.2g
Sugars 3.2g
Protein 1.0g