Friday, April 06, 2007

Explaining GreeK Easter


Easter is a big event in our family- at least on the Greek side. When I was growing up, I always got an Easter basket on American Easter because my mom is not Greek, but then we would celebrate again whenever Greek Easter rolled around. The Orthodox calender follows a different schedule, but what it usually means is that the Greek Easter bunny gets to hit the half price candy. This year, however, much to the dismay of cheap Greeks everywhere, both fall on the same day.

My father recalls the fasting which lasted until the Saturday night before Easter Sunday when everyone went to St Sophia's for the midnight service. The fast ends with a huge meal in the middle of the night. A lot of people think of lambs turning on spits when they think of Greek celebrations, and I did, too, but I was lately informed that our Yiya always did a leg of lamb, and the lamb thing wasn’t done until my Uncle Mimi moved out to Chevy Chase in the late 1940s. There we could play baseball in the side yard and roast whole animals with impunity. If the weather was nice, tables were set up on the back terrace. I remember doing the Twist for the first time in their basement, and often watching the Wizard of Oz on TV after dinner.  The best part of Greek Easter though, for kids big and small, was the Egg War.

All Greek Easter eggs are dyed a deep red for Christ’s blood. Some rely on food coloring for the red effect. My Yiya, however,  used red crepe paper. All symbolism aside, the seemingly sole purpose that Greeks dye a gazillion eggs crimson  is to destroy them. The point is you take your egg, hold it in your fist and hit your opponent's egg or be hit. The egg that cracks is the loser, and the victor goes on until all eggs are broken, and only one grand champion egg holder is left. (If you cheat like my father and uncle, you might slip in your thumb or, if really prepared, a marble substitute.)

These days my cousins, Dean and Ann have taken on the daunting task of having the hoopla at their house which is a frightful distance from Washington. They keep moving farther away, but it does no good. Many of us are well known for not missing a meal, and my brother drives all the way from Michigan. Some of my family can’t find their way out of a paper bag so they tend to travel in tribes and caravans with those that can.  Egg count this year is up to about 45, and the rainy forecast must have my poor cousins contemplating moving out of state, but until that happens, the Egg War will go on, and I have a lot of dying to do.

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