Living the spirit of Easter in Kefalonia

Easter in Kefalonia is a glorious, festive event, worth to live, no matter your religious beliefs. It’s spring, nature celebrates and so are the people!

The traditions and the warm spirit and joy of the locals, make for a truly memorable experience! There is a general air of excitement, while waiting for the great event, Greek Easter or Pasha, throughout Kefalonia.


The Easter period begins with Lent. Lent is the annual period of Christian observance that precedes Easter. The first day of Lent is always Ash Wednesday and its observance lasts for 40 days, mirroring the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness before starting his ministry. It can also be seen to mirror the 40 hours that Jesus spent in the tomb prior to his resurrection.

In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Lent is called 'Great Lent' and is the most important fasting period of the year, in preparation for the most important celebration of the year, Pasha (Orthodox Easter Sunday). Great Lent begins on Ash Monday or Clean Monday (the beginning of the 7th week before Pasha) and runs for 40 days (including Sundays) until Lazarus Saturday (the day before Palm Sunday). Fasting continues until the resurrection of Jesus, holly Saturday night. Lent is a penitential period, involving the dual disciplines of abstinence and fasting. During Lent many Christians commit to fasting or giving up certain foods, habits or luxuries - for example meat, dairy products, fish, cakes and sweets, alcohol, smoking - for its duration (the money saved is often then donated to charity). This is done both as a form of penitence and as a spiritual tool to tame the body and 'sharpen the spirit' for prayer, reflection and contemplation in preparation for the celebration of Easter.

Easter in Kefalonia


Purple is the color most associated with Lent - during this period purple church vestments (altar cloths and the priests' liturgical garments) are used. The purple is symbolic in two ways: it is the traditional color of mourning (recalling Jesus' death) and also symbolic of royalty (celebrating Christ's coming as King).

Easter in Kefalonia

 

Every Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem and Crosses made by leaves from palm trees (vagia) are offered. On Palm Sunday, (the last Sunday before Easter) the local women make elaborate wreaths weave with palms to adorn their church during Holy Week.

Easter in Kefalonia


On holy Thursday, is time when the households prepare for the Easter festivities, when housewives bake their traditional sweet rolls (koulouria), sweetened bread (tsoureki) and dye large numbers of hand-boiled eggs red – the colour to symbolize the Passion of Christ and the egg itself to symbolize rebirth . There is a legend that gives an explanation about the red eggs. Mary Magdalene after she went to Jesus' tomb and found it empty, she ran to the house where the disciples were. She announced the great news and a disbelieving Peter looked at her and said, "I will believe you only if the eggs you have in the basket will become red" and immediately the eggs were painted red.

Easter in Kefalonia

 

In the evening, the Twelve Passion Gospels (thotheka Evangelia) are read out loud by the priest in a mystic atmosphere of devout concentration.

 

Easter in Kefalonia



On Friday before Easter (Megali Paraskevi – Holy Friday), in Agia Efimia, end every village and town of Kefalonia, Parish women decorate the Epitaph, and the locals take the finest flowers from their garden to the local church, to decorate the elaborate tomb-like structure in which the body of Christ will be symbolically laid on Friday evening during the church service (Epitaphios). Afterwards, the flower decked structure is carried in solemn position through the whole village, the cemetery, and back to the church, followed by a large crowd, holding little oil lamps (fanarakia) or incense burners. People come out of their houses and stand silently holding candles when the procession passes. The church bells toll mournfully and the procession passes under the sound of music performed by the local Philharmonic Orchestra, giving an ecstatic dimension in this mournful night.

 

Easter in Kefalonia
Orthodox Easter celebrations on the Greek island of Kefalonia are a smash — literally.
Kefalonians and Corfiots have marked Holy Saturday morning with a strange old custom referred to as the "Botides" — where large clay jugs filled with water are thrown from the balconies of homes, bell houses and high buildings, in the centre of town, smashing into pieces on the streets below as people are gather around to watch. The symbolism is to create an “earthquake” that is like the one that occurred following Christ’s resurrection from his tomb.


On holly Saturday, before midnight, people gather in church, dressed well, holding long candles (lampathes). At midnight the lights inside the church are turned off. After a while, the priest lights three candles and proclaims “Christos Anesti!” (Christ is raised). Every one clamours to light their own candle from his, with the “Holy Light”, and there are cries of “Pare to Fos” (Receive the Light). As the people light their candles they say to each other “Christos Anesti!” and “Alithos Anesti!”

Easter in Kefalonia

Some people of the crowd laughing, some are close to tears, as they emotionally embrace one another, shaking hands with friends and strangers alike, and holly light is passed, from candle to candle, in the crowd, until it gets of each and every home of the island. The holly light of the Anastasi (Resurrection of Christ) is considered to be a blessing and a good luck for all the people. As the chanting and celebration spirit continues, bells ring cheerfully, firecrackers explode and fireworks are flashing up into the night sky. The island is shaken by the sound of the fireworks in a spectacular celestial sight and the celebrations begin in every Kefalonian square in order to mark the Resurrection of Christ.

 

Easter in Kefalonia 


After the service of the Holly Saturday, the traditional Kefalonian Mayeritsa or Patsa, is served, in almost every Kefalonian household. Back at home, from church, everyone greets each other, red eggs appear on the Easter table, where family and friends try to smash as many of their “opponents” eggs, as possible, before their late evening meal. The traditional, Anastasimo meal (the first meal of the Resurrection) which consists of Kefalonian mayeritsa or patsa, made from carefully-washed lamb or goat entrails, cooked in tomato sauce with cinnamon and sapsiho (marjoram),

Easter in Kefalonia

accompanied by tsoureki (sweetened bread), flavoured with mahlepi (mahleb) and mastic, one or two salads, lots of eggs to break and plenty of local, house wine!

Easter in Kefalonia

But the highlight is, of course, the Easter Sunday, where various dishes are served over wine. The feast lasts all day long. Although the midnight, holly Saturday feast may well last into the small hours, the household will be up early next day to prepare the Easter Sunday lunch, during which, families and friends are united, around the festive table.

Easter in Kefalonia

Kefalonians usually grill their lamb or goat on a spit – nowadays mostly motor-driven. Some others, they will roast in the oven, either at home or at the local bakery. Along with the goat or lamb they will grill Kokoretsi, a delicious combination of offal from the lamb or goat, heavily seasoned and mixed with local herbs (eg oregano), skewered and turned over the charcoals along with the lamb. The quicker to cook Kokoretsi forms a delicious meze (starter) along with local Kefalotyri and Feta cheese and local Robola or Vostilidi wine! The festive Kefalonian, Easter table is completed with a delicious fresh wild asparagus salad or Tsigaridia, or Local Horta (fresh, boiled greens). Easter rolls (pashalina koulouria), Easter bread (lamropsomo) and Sweetened bread (Tsoureki) are handed around the table. A locally produced or homemade rose or red wine matches perfectly the Easter feast, after which, all you need is a hammock between two, old, olive trees!

The following week in Kefalonia is called the New Week to mark the new beginning after the Lord’s resurrection.

Easter in Kefalonia


On New Tuesday don’t miss the panigiri of Themata Monastry. The Monastery of Themata in Kefalonia, is located on the slopes of Agia Dinati Mountain, not far from Agia Efimia. The Monastery of Panagia Themata is one of the oldest monuments of Kefalonia, dating back to 1096.

There are many assumptions in how the monastery got its name. Some people believe that there was an old settlement named Themata in the region that gave its name to the monastery. Others believe that this monastery was the seat of a bishop in the Byzantine times when Kefalonia was a thema (Byzantine administrative unit).

Easter in Kefalonia

The monastery is located about 9 km from Agia Efimia, high in the mountains surrounded by a large pine forest. Actually, it is one of the best trekking paths along the mountain of Agia Dinati, offering an amazing view to the east shores of Kefalonia and Ithaca. The Monastery of Panagia of Themata celebrates twice a year, on August 15th and the first Tuesday (New Tuesday) after Easter. In fact, this Tuesday, there is a large celebration with a litany of the holy icon of Panagia, dancing of local groups and a panigiri in the pine forest, around the monastery.

 

Celebration of Easter in Kefalonia is a unique experience. Don’t miss it!

Happy Easter to you all! Καλό Πάσχα!

Easter in Kefalonia

 

 

 

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