May Day Wreaths

On the 1st of May, it is customary in Greece to make (or buy) a May Day flower wreath (stefani) which we hang outside our home until the flowers dry. It is supposed to bring people closer to nature and keep the ‘evil eye’ at bay whilst it holds a significant symbolic value, associated with the victory of summer over winter and ultimately the power of life over death.

If you want to make it on your own this year, you can follow these simple steps:

You will need some lots of fresh flowers with long stems (such as roses, daisies, anemones, violets, or lilacs), a few flexible tree branches, something to tie everything together (try string, metal rope or some fine yarn) and finally a beautiful ribbon to hang it.

Start by weaving together the flexible tree branches to make the base of the wreath, thread the flowers throughout making sure you leave no gaps, and finally use the string in order to keep everything in place.

Your beautiful homemade May Day wreath is now ready to hang outside of your front door!

Happy May Day!

Easter traditions in Greece

Orthodox Easter is filled with different customs and traditions related to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Many of these are still followed and celebrated all around Greece during the Holy Week (Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα), with the participation in each also being an opportunity for a social gathering.

On the Sunday before Easter and right before the beginning of the Holy Week (Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα in Greek), the Christian Church celebrates one of its most joyous holy days of the year. Palm Sunday is the commemoration of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, following the raising of Lazarus from the dead  which is celebrated the Saturday before.

In many places, on this Sunday churches in Greece display a basket containing woven palm crosses, placed on a table in front of an icon of Jesus. However wherever palms are not available, they are substituted with with branches of native trees, including box, olive, willow, and yew. In Greece, the celebration is called Κυριακή των Βαίων (Bay Leaf Sunday), named after the most common type of branch that worshipers carry.

Holy Monday marks the beginning of lent for those who have not already started, but want to receive the holy communion on Holy Saturday. It is a day dedicated to Joseph.

Holy Tuesday is the day when households get clean and tidy, in anticipation of the Resurrection. In some areas, they also make a start with the Easter baking, however this is traditionally done on Thursday.

Holy Wednesday was the day when home makers would prepare the starter for the whole year’s bread. This would be taken to church for a blessing.

Most of the Easter baking and dyeing eggs in a bright red colour takes place on Holy Thursday. Traditional cookies (koulourakia) and tsoureki (a challah-like bread with yeast and egg – photo courtesy of The Tasty Other) are the most common ones, even to this day. In many areas, in the evening, women also go to churches to decorate the epitaph with fresh flowers; in others, this takes place on Holy Friday.

Holy Friday is a day of mourning; in the evenings, people go to church for the procession of the bier of Christ; during the ceremony, they pass under the bier and take the flowers decorating it home, as they are considered blessed. On this day, fasting is even more strict than before, as believers also abstain from olive oil, whereas in many areas, any labour is prohibited.

Holy Saturday marks the first Resurrection of Christ; believers go to church on early morning, while also making preparations for the feast which will take place on the following day. In the evenings, everyone attends church for the actual Resurrection, holding white or beautifully decorated candles which are lit by the Holy Light, which has arrived to every orthodox church straight from Jerusalem. Once back from church, they enjoy a dinner of offal soup (mageiritsa), which is supposed to prepare their bodies for Easter’s heavy food, after more than forty days of lent.

Easter is a day of celebration which involves cooking lamb or goat on a spit, smashing red eggs while sharing the news of Christ’s resurrection.

Happy Easter!

(photo courtesy of The Tasty Other)

Easter workshop at the Hellenic Center!

We had such great fun helping our little friends to make Easter biscuits and beautiful Easter baskets!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How many names of February do you know?

 

In Greece, the second month of the year is called many different names, all linked to its short duration: Mikros, Koutsos, Koutoflevaros, Fliaris and Gouzoukis. February is also called Flevaris, because of the underground water veins (fleves), that flow in abundance at this time of the year due to many rains.

Whichever way you choose, February is here and we couldn’t be happier, as it brings us a little bit closer to spiring!

Melomakarona and Kourambiedes

As Christmas is getting closer we would like to share with you our favourite Christmas recipes: melomakarona and kourambiedes! Happy Baking!

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Christopsomo

Christopsomo or Christ’s bread is a very special Greek bread for Christmas. It has its origins in ancient Greece and the bloodless sacrifices people used to offer to their Gods to ask for their favour.

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Christmas breads and holiday hearts…this is the way the holiday starts!

We are so excited to share with you some photos from our sold out Christmas workshop, in collaboration with the Hellenic Centre and Ekivil (Ελληνικός Κύκλος Βιβλιόφιλων Λονδίνου). All the little ones who joined enjoyed a very fun day filled with all sorts of festive activities, a seasonal play, traditional baking and exciting arts and crafts. Can’t wait to see you all again in our Easter event!

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17th November 1973 – A Day to Remember!

On the 17th of November 1973, a group of University students, barricaded inside Athens Polytechnic (Polytechneio), protesting the military junta that was ruling Greece since 1967.

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Happy Father’s Day!

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Mother Figures in Modern Greek Art

   Mother as an inspiration for Modern Greek Art!

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