Skopelos News
March 27th, 2015 Newsflash
Thalpos

25th of March

Greeks celebrate the 25th March as dual holiday: a historical and a religious one. They celebrate the War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire know as The “Greek Revolution”, which was a successful war of independence waged by the Greek revolutionaries between 1821 and 1830.

Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Annunciation by Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, (that she should become the mother of Jesus Christ the Son of God). The Annunciation (25th of March) is exactly nine months before Christmas!

The country marks this dual holiday with two things: Parades and Bakaliaros (Cod fish)

A custom across the country on this day is to eat crispy, fried Cod fish with garlic sauce (known as Bakaliaros skordalia)! This has to do with the Lent before Easter, where no animals or animal products should be eaten. However the Orthodox Church allowed an exception for the celebration of the Annunciation, and that it the Cod fish!

Easter

Easter, also called Pascha is a festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, described in the New Testament as having occurred three days after his crucifixion by Romans at Calvary. It is the culmination of the Passion of Christ, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

The week before Easter is called Holy Week, and it contains the days of the Easter Triduum, including Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday), commemorating the Last Supper and its preceding foot cleansing, as well as Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus. In western Christianity, Eastertide, the Easter Season, begins on Easter Sunday and lasts seven weeks, ending with the coming of the fiftieth day, Pentecost Sunday. In Orthodoxy, the season of Pascha begins on Pascha and ends with the coming of the fortieth day, the Feast of the Ascension.

While the rich culinary traditions associated with Easter vary somewhat from region to region, a number of customs have evolved during Holy Week that are typical throughout Greece. On Holy Thursday, most Greek families boil and dye at least a dozen eggs in a deep red colour, symbolizing the blood of Christ. Nowadays, most Greeks use artificial dyes (our own favourite brand is Anatoli), although some prefer to use onion skins or beet juice to avoid using an industrial dye; the result is usually dark pink but still quite pretty.

Tsoureki, a sweet Easter bread, is another food prepared during the traditionally frugal Holy Week. Although tsoureki is eaten year-round in Greece, Easter tsoureki is usually shaped into braids and decorated with a bright red egg on top. Made with a lot of eggs and yeast, the airy, white bread has a distinct aroma that usually comes from one of two ingredients (or sometimes both). The first is mastic, a highly aromatic plant resin with a vaguely pine-like smell that is only produced on the island of Chios in the Aegean. Mastic is used in all sorts of ways in Greece but mainly in chewing gum, cooking and liqueur. Alternatively, some recipes use Mahlepi, a powdered spice that is made from ground red cherry seeds and tastes like bitter almond or bitter cherry. Tsoureki is always delicious, regardless of which flavouring is used.

The official kick-off for the meat-fest that is Greek Easter comes right after the church service observing the resurrection of Christ on Saturday night. Just after midnight, Greeks come home from church and first indulge in a game of tsougrisma, or egg-tapping, with their red eggs. Each person holds an egg and taps the eggs of others in the family. Whoever manages to break the other eggs without breaking their own is the winner. (Not surprisingly, this game usually awakens a competitive streak among a lot of participants, and fights have been known to break out when illicit tactics are used.)

After the egg-tapping, a special soup called Magiritsa is eaten. The soup is made with lamb innards – any or all of the intestines, heart and liver, as well as the neck and the head (it really depends; each family uses the parts they prefer) – essentially, the organs that will not be cooked on a spit later. The other ingredients are dill, lettuce, onion and, traditionally, avgolemono, an egg and lemon juice broth (although some prefer the soup without the avgolemono). The soup is thick and full of flavour but is definitely a “love it or hate it” kind of dish.

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