Easter is the highlight of the Greek calendar. As Easter approaches, you feel a different tempo building up throughout the country. Taverna and restaurant owners around the islands busily spruce up their properties in readiness for the year ahead. Hotels begin to open, and last-minute touches are made to their gardens. Generally, the country awakens to the new season.
Easter heralds the end of winter and the hope for a prosperous year ahead. It’s as if Greece has awoken from a deep sleep. Everyone heads for their family home, meaning that many travel back to the island where they were born. At airports, ferry ports and bus stations, you see students with their luggage making their way home from college. Friends and families are preparing to get together, discussing what food they will prepare and looking forward to the feasting and merriment that is to come. Like Christmas in the UK, the general pace of work slows down a few days before Good Friday in preparation for the Easter holiday.
I have spent several memorable Easters with friends on the island of Tinos. Good Friday evening marks the start of the ceremonies, with the tomb of Christ being paraded round the church and through the streets, followed by the congregation. On Easter Saturday evening, you join the throng of people in their Sunday best making their way to the local church. There is a sound of excitement and expectation in their voices. Those who get there early usually manage to get into the church itself, but the majority stand outside talking in whispers, listening to the service on loudspeakers. Many carry candles, lit from the holy flame, signifying the light that is to be taken into their homes. Children scurry about excitedly, making the most of the opportunity to meet friends and younger relatives who they have perhaps not seen for a year.