Lazarakia – Lazarus Saturday sweet spice breads

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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.  Read more...

Tsoureki – The traditional Greek Easter Sweet Bread

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Tsoureki (τσουρέκι) is a rich sweet bread known as the traditional Greek Easter sweet bread. It is similar to French brioche but with the unique aroma of mahlepi and mastiha. This braided bread, usually with a red egg in the middle, decorates the tables and homes of those who celebrate Greek Easter all around the world. The traditional tsoureki is made of three braids, thus symbolizing the Holy Trinity. In the past years, Tsoureki breads and red eggs where taken to church, to be blessed by the priest of the village. People would eat it to break the 40 day Lenten fast
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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.


Greek Easter, Holy Saturday night festivities

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It is widely known that Orthodox Church does not celebrate Easter on the same day as Western Churches do. The reason for that is because Christian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar. The rest of Christians follow the Gregorian calendar. Greek Easter is the most important holiday according to Greek tradition. The Holy Week started today in Greece. There are many festivities and church services during this week that lead to Jesus Christ’s Resurrection on Holy Saturday night.
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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.  Read more...