Easter is the most significant celebration observed by the Orthodox Church and its faithful, with many variations in the way it is celebrated. One of the most popular traditions practiced by the old and new calendars alike is the dyeing of red eggs in the lead-up to the Anastasi. The tradition is said to have originated among the early Christians of Mesopotamia, who would stain eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ, which was shed for the salvation of humanity.
There is also a story that two years after the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene was on her way to Jerusalem carrying a basket full of white eggs when she met with Roman Emperor Tiberius. She welcomed him to Jerusalem and requested that he do good by the people of Jerusalem, unlike his predecessor Pontius Pilate who crucified the Son of God.
Tiberius, however, wanted further confirmation of the Resurrection and miracles performed by Christ, and said that if the white eggs in Mary’s basket turned red that he would believe. The eggs then turned red, and Mary gave one to the Emperor and took one for herself, saying “Christ is Risen” to which he replied “Truly, he is risen.”
The egg itself is also symbolic of the burial and resurrection of Jesus. When the egg hatches and life bursts out of the eggshell – a symbol of Christ’s tomb – it serves as a reminder of Christ’s resurrection and everlasting life.
The pious also fast for six weeks of Lent, which is then followed by a feast on Easter Sunday signifying the end of sacrifice, and the faithful rejoice cracking each other’s eggs, starting the moment they hear “Christ is Risen” at the church.
Millions of Orthodox Christians around the world congregate at their local churches late on Holy Saturday to collect the Eternal Flame come midnight and pass it around the congregation, exchanging kisses, prayers, and wishes of love, happiness and overall prosperity.
Christos Anesti (Christ has risen) and Alithos Anesti (Truly, he is risen) will be said from one parishioner to another to confirm the resurrection of Jesus, and we remember his sacrifice in being crucified and resurrecting for the salvation of all humanity. The one on the giving end of the egg cracking or the lambatha lighting will say Christos Anesti to be met with Alithos Anesti by the person that receives the Eternal Flame and/or has their egg hit.
Families will carry the flame home where they will gather with those closest to break the Lenten fast and, as is the tradition, eat magiritsa soup and continue to crack their red eggs.
Finally, a celebratory feast will follow at lunchtime on Easter Sunday with people coming together with the ones they hold dear, whether it be family or friends or both; a feast that usually takes place around a lamb on a spit accompanied by many traditional Greek dishes and desserts.
Whether one identifies as religious or not, these traditions, which date back thousands of years, serve as a time of reflection – and a welcome one at that – as the world continues to experience instability, war, and famine, and on a personal level, our own challenges; Easter brings with it hope and a chance to start anew.
Neos Kosmos wishes all of our readers, their families and friends Καλή Ανάσταση.
*On Easter Sunday 8 April, Archbishop Stylianos, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Australia, will celebrate the Vespers of Love at the Annunciation of Our Lady in Redfern NSW, with the participation od Bishop Seraphim of Apollonias and all the revered clergy of Sydney.
*Melbourne’s historical church The Annunciation of Our Lady of the Greek Community of Melbourne has been up and running again since March. There will be a Liturgy leading up to the Resurrection at 11.15 pm on Holy Saturday and the Vespers of Love service on Easter Sunday will take place at St Efstathios Church in South Melbourne.