In contemporary Greece, sun is still celebrated with the fires of Saint John, which are lit around sunset on the eve of St. John, on the night of June 23rd. People throw at the flames the now dried wreaths made on May Day, and those who then jump over the flames make secret wishes, aiming at prosperity and love.
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!
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.
(photo courtesy of The Tasty Other)
Whichever way you choose, February is here and we couldn’t be happier, as it brings us a little bit closer to spiring!