While many Australians celebrated Easter with hunts in the garden for chocolate eggs and Easter bonnet parades last week, our Greek community is just getting ready for their festivities which take place this weekend (Sunday April 19). Here, we take a look at Orthodox Easter traditions and some of our traders who are joining in the celebrations.
The preparations start on Thursday, which is known as Holy or Great Thursday and is the day when traditional Easter bread (tsoureki) is baked. On this day, large quantities of hard boiled eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ. (At the Market, you can find tsoureki, dyed eggs and traditional sweet Greek biscuits at Rita’s Coffee and Nuts; Steve’s Deli and Vangeli’s Deli both sell tsoureki, candles, eggs and various colours of dye if you want to make your own dyed eggs.)
Holy or Great Friday is a day of mourning and as such, in places where there is a large Greek population, flags are hung at half mast and church bells chime in a mournful tone all day. It is marked by the Service of Lamentation to commemorate the death of Christ and many particularly observant Orthodox Christians refrain from cooking on this day, or cook only simple foods that can be boiled in water such as beans and thin soups (traditionally during the Lent fasting period, foods involving oil, meat and dairy are not eaten).
Holy Saturday is a busy day in the kitchen, as preparations begin for the next day’s Easter feast. These include a soup called mayiritsa which is traditionally eaten after the midnight Service of the Resurrection which is held on Saturday night. Mayiritsa is made from the internal organs of the lamb that will be roasted the next day. After the midnight service, families break the Lent fast and enjoy the tsoureki bread, the mayiritsa or a chicken and lemon soup called avgolemono and the dyed eggs. They also begin playing a game involving tapping the ends of the eggs together to break opponents’ eggs, symbolizing Christ breaking free from his tomb. This game continues throughout the day on Sunday, which is why large quantities of eggs were required! Whoever has the egg that lasts the longest is the winner and it is believed they will be lucky all year.
Food-wise, the focus of the Greek Easter period is Easter Sunday, when the end of fasting means meat and dairy products can be eaten again. The traditional highlight is a lamb dish (to represent the Lamb of God) such as whole roasted lamb on a spit. This is served with accompaniments such as olives and other appetisers, spanakopita (spinach and cheese pie), pastitsio (a baked dish with ground meat and bechamel sauce) and desserts such as rizogalo (rice custard) and baklava.
If you’d like to try some of the Greek dishes served at Easter or throughout the year, head to our traders in the Deli Aisle and Food Hall. There you’ll find olives, cheeses, preserved vegetables, bite-size pastries, dips and bread for appetisers along with take-home meals such as moussaka. Our butchers have various cuts of lamb available – just ask for what you need.
Our delis also stock baklava and other traditional Greek sweets. Try Steve’s Deli or Emerald Deli, or Flour for a modern twist with ice-cream. Or maybe you could try making your own with our baklava recipe.
Happy Greek Easter!