Rebecca Elia's Blog

All about Feminine Health, Healing, and Greece

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Red Eggs and Rebirth


The most important celebration of the year in Greece, Greek Easter, occurs on the same Sunday as in the U.S. this year. This doesn’t happen very often, so it’s always a treat when it does. Unlike in the U.S., Christmas is not Greece’s greatest holiday; Easter is.

Although many Greeks will argue this point, I am not Greek, at least not in this lifetime. I am Assyrian. My grandparents were Christian, members of the Church of the East, and, Easter was also their greatest holiday. I had often noticed similarities between my heritage and that of the Greeks, and this included religious celebrations. I was not raised in the Assyrian church, but, each year, my Assyrian cousin, who has been a prominent figure in the Northern California wine and food scene, hosts Easter. He invites all the relatives; there are often several who I have never seen before. Folks travel across the country to take part in the festivities. Although it’s certainly not the same as the scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding (e.g., my cousins aren’t all named Nick) we do have the entire lamb on the spit, loads of relatives and a fantasy-land of food and drink. Instead of the ouzo or tsipouro we have a lovely assortment of wine and spirits. Sometimes there’s even Assyrian circle dancing, although this year we’re hoping for a soft-shoe number performed by my seventy-eight-year-old mother and one of my talented teenage cousins. (*See video of Mom's debut here!)

Along with the lamb, we have dolmas (Our version contains cubes of lamb and is dressed with thick yogurt). And then there’s my cousin’s special traditional plates, including desserts, such as his chocolate decadence and his infamous mudslide cookies (huge chunks of chocolate barely held together by cookie dough that do slide down one’s throat quite easily—one year the kids found the stash and ate the majority of them before dinner!). There are other similarities, too--like the deep earth red-dyed Easter eggs from onion skins, and the crack the egg battles. As a child, I was so impressed by their rich color that I did my science project on natural dyes. And, yes, the onions skins beat the beets.

When I finally was fortunate enough to spend Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα (The “Great Week” leading up to Easter) in Greece, many years ago, I was impressed by how similar their celebration, combining food, family and the Divine, was to the spirit and nature of my family’s own celebration. It leads me to reflect on the role of ritual amongst family and friends and the back seat it takes in our culture. It also saddens me to see such a de-emphasis on the message of this universal Holy week. Spring is here. Rebirth is here. Once again, all is possible. And it leads me to ask the questions: How do you choose to honor the cyclical nature of life? What rituals will you share with the dear loved ones in your life?

Happy Easter! * Happy Passover! * Καλό Πάσχα! * Shalom! * Shlama’lokhun! * Happy Spring!

Greek-American Actress Rita Wison talks about Greek Easter on The Washington Post.
Learn how to dye Easter eggs using onion skins here.

4 comments:

  1. Χριστός Ανέστη, Rebecca mou! Great post...that's why I went through the Holy Week Megali Vdomada day by day in my blog...there's so much symbolism in the Greek traditions and rituals...so much has been handed down to us and it is so important to pass it on! Glad you found the link to Rita Wilson's article...they must have changed it because the one I had linked to went to a different page so thought they had taken it down...
    xxx :)

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  2. Thank you, Sophia mou. To those of you interested in learning more about Greek Easter, please follow the "Global Greek World" link to Sophia's blog. xxx

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