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Easter is the most important period of the Orthodox calendar
Easter is around the corner for most of Australia, however for those baptized as Orthodox, it's still a while away in May. Greek, Serbian and Russian Orthodox cultures celebrate Easter differently each year; some years the celebrations coincide with the Catholic calendar, yet at times it may differ. Every Easter, Orthodox cultures honour this significant period through many traditional rituals, including lent, church service, dying the red eggs, making Easter biscuits, bread (tsoureki) and more.
Easter is an extremely significant time of the year for Orthodox Christians, as it signifies Christs rising from his tomb. Similarly, we have many customs that have been carried down from generation to generation. Recipes and specific foods are a major part of our Easter celebration.
Adelaide is extremely accommodating for Orthodox Christians as there are many churches around the state; there is a large European population in Australia. One of the many important aspects of this time of year is lent. For 40 days, no meat and dairy is allowed, however, most Orthodox persons fast on the Wednesday and Friday and strictly fast on the last week leading up to Easter Sunday (also known as Holy Week).
During this time, it can be quite difficult for some when eating out or attending a function. Luckily, there are a variety of restaurants and cafes suitable for lent, particularly vegan and vegetarian cuisine.
Bliss Organic Cafe is a popular destination for those who are fasting and who are vegan in general. You can enjoy a healthy, nutritious and lent friendly meal in their beautiful outdoor seating area. Choose from a range of burgers, wraps, salads, or freshly squeezed juices.
On the last Friday of the Easter period, we attend church in the evening for the Epitafio, which is the cloth depicting the body of Jesus used by Greek Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox churches. Icons of Christ's death are decorated with flowers, replicating Christ's tomb, which is called the Epitafio. During the church service, the Epitafio is carried around the church while the congregation follows chanting and holding candles. If you live close by to an Orthodox church, it's worth watching the service, as we circle the block of streets around the church.
St George Greek Orthodox Church in Adelaide Epitafio - Image Source: Maggas at English Wikipedia / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
Easter Saturday we take communion, in which we can then consume dairy and oil, however, meat is forbidden until Midnight Mass. We attend church Saturday evening, and at Midnight we crack the red eggs and celebrate the ressurection of Christ, followed by a delicious feast comprising a Greek soup called Mayiritsa; a traditional and controversial dish made from lamb offal. We usually make a different soup with chicken stock and rice instead (augolemono), which is accompanied by a lamb or chicken roast and veggies.
Easter Sunday is then celebrated all day with a barbecue, lamb on the spit and an array of authentic Greek dishes such as tzatziki (yoghurt garlic dip), gemista (stuffed vegetables), skordalia (garlic potato dip), melitzanes (eggplant), seafood and more.