Christos Anesti: Greek Easter full of ‘chaotic’ and unique traditions

Each year in the weeks leading up to Easter, my mom always tells the same infamous story. One day in second grade, I came home bawling, and when my mom asked what was wrong, I burst into another round of tears and said, “I just wanna be Catholic like all the other kids in class!” A pretty bold statement from a seven-year-old, right?

Greek Orthodox Easter, or “Greaster” as my family calls it, falls on a different day than regular Easter most years, and as a little kid, this wasn’t something I could grasp — why was I the one who had to wait an extra two weeks for the Easter bunny to bring my chocolate?! As I would later learn, Orthodox Christians use the Julian calendar to determine the date of Easter each year, and this usually causes Easter to fall on a later date than when most Christians celebrate. It’s always something that throws people off and has made me different from most of my friends, whether I liked it or not.

But as I’ve grown up, I’ve also grown to love that I celebrate a different Easter. Aside from the fact that staying in Champaign this weekend alone was a pretty weird experience, celebrating Greek Orthodox Easter is something I always look forward to.

From red dyed eggs to a lamb feast to screaming “Christos Anesti” in each others faces, my Easters have always been a little crazier than most people’s. Each year, one of my aunts dyes dozens of eggs with onions and vinegar to make them red. The red color is meant to represent the blood of Christ and rebirth — a little bit different than the cute colored eggs that everyone else makes on American Easter, but oh well! Then with these eggs, my family plays a little tournament of tsougrisma each year. Everyone gets their own egg and we match up and hit the eggs against one another’s. At the end, whoever is successfully left with an un-cracked egg is said to have good luck for the rest of year, or in my family’s case, walks away with some cash from Papou.

In keeping with the Greek stereotype, everything is always about the food, and Easter is no different. From the roasted lamb to Easter bread, extreme amounts of everything are prepared. Even if I tried to not stuff myself to the brim with delicious food, it wouldn’t be possible because someone is always encouraging me to continue eating, and I’m sure this Easter will be no different.

It’s no secret that Greeks are loud, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding made that perfectly clear to everyone across the United States who saw it. Fortunately for myself, my family easily keeps up the reputation of being loud and this means there’s never a dull moment at our Easter dinner. If it isn’t my mom yelling about my cousins stealing koulourakia cookies before eating dinner, then it’s my uncle cracking jokes about when he was a kid. Throughout the day, the greeting “Christos Anesti,” which means Christ is risen, and the response “Alithos Anesti,” which means “truly, He is risen,” is said to me a least a thousand times. It may be chaos, but it’s my chaos and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

So if you ever get the opportunity to experience Greek Orthodox Easter, definitely do it. Sure we may seem a little foreign and being obnoxious is in our blood, but there’s absolutely nothing more entertaining than spending Greaster with my family — especially if Yiayia gets ahold of the ouzo!