Every year at Easter, Greek Orthodox Christians around the world come together to celebrate one of the most important holidays of the year. It’s a day full of family traditions and delicious food.
There are certain dishes that are given. Roasting lamb is an established practice that comes directly from Passover, in which God used Moses to tell his people to gather in small gatherings and sacrifice a lamb in each family. Accordingly, Jesus is called “the lamb of God”. The Greeks have observed this custom of serving a roast lamb at Easter ever since.
Dark colored red eggs are also an important part of the Greek Easter dinner. The vibrant red eggs represent the blood of Christ, while the egg itself symbolizes rebirth. Dyeing eggs red is a long-established family custom, taught and passed down from generation to generation. Brightly colored eggs are used to decorate the festive table, then the family plays a fun game of cracking eggs known as tsougrisma to see which egg is the strongest.
Greek Easter bread is known as tsoureki and is made using three braids of twisted dough to highlight the Holy Trinity. The flavor of tsoureki is so exceptionally delicious because two aromatic spices are used in the ancient recipe. Mastic and mahlab, sold in ethnic grocery stores, are added to give the bread a unique taste. The mastic comes only from the island of Chios, which makes the custom more meaningful.
Finally, our Easter party must end with homemade cookies called koulourakia. These Greek Butter Cookies are hand braided and baked to a crisp golden outside and a soft, crumbly inside. Historians tell us that the koulourakia dates back to Crete during the Minoan civilization, 2600 BC, when the Minoans trained them as serpents because they worshiped the serpent for its healing powers.
It’s no exaggeration to think that koulourakia existed at the time Plato mentioned the lost civilization of Atlantis, and whether this is real or a myth is secondary to the fact that the Greek Easter koulourakia have deep family ties and customs rooted in antiquity.