Lazarakia (λαζαράκια), meaning little Lazarus, are sweet, spicy small bread that are handmade on Lazarus Saturday, one week before the Greek Orthodox Easter. They represent the miracle of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead, after four days in the tomb. They are shaped like boys with crossed arms on their chest. Also their bodies seem to be wrapped in burial clothes.
It is that time of the year again. Greek godparents (νονός, νονά) visit their godchildren and bring them their Easter candles (lambades, λαμπάδες) which are lit on the midnight Holy Saturday service. They also bring presents or clothes and a chocolate Easter egg.
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It is also known as Labropsomo, or Labrokoulouro. The names vary according to the region of Greece they are made. The origins of this sweet bread are possibly Turkish, due to the 400 years of Ottoman domination. This kind of bread is called çörek in Turkish. Tsoureki breads are also made with chocolate, nuts, berries, cream or syrup and found everywhere in Greek bakeries throughout the year, but the traditional plain tsoureki is massively produced for Greek Easter. Delicious with various aromas, is the ideal breakfast on Easter Sunday.
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On Holy Saturday evening, about one hour before midnight, the Resurrection church service starts. People start to gather in church and everybody brings a candle – usually white in colour. Children bring more colourful candles, with small toys and various decorating parts tied on the them. By tradition, godparents bring the candles to children. At midnight, church lights are turned off and the priests announce the Christ’s Resurrection and light some people’s candles with the Holy Light. The light then is distributed to the rest of people from one candle to another.
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Christ is Risen is sung many times by everybody and colourful fireworks go off to celebrate that special moment of Christianity. Family members kiss each other. One person says “Chris is Risen” and the other one responds “He truly is Risen”. After at most people leave and go home. Few people stay till the end of the mass, for about an hour longer. At least one member of each family brings the candle lit on at home and they use its smoke to draw a cross at the upper side of the doorway. That symbolizes protection of the house and the family members for the year.