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Europe’s Festivals: Greek Orthodox Easter in Nafplio, Greece

Nafplio, Greece

In Nafplio, people gather on the main square on Saturday night to enjoy fireworks at midnight, marking the start of Easter. People light candles and head home for a feast. It’s an all-day celebration on Sunday, with grilled lamb, visits to neighbors, and dancing and singing.

Complete Video Script

In Greece — we’re in the city of Nafplio — Easter is celebrated as both the welcoming of spring and as a deeply religious festival with a distinctly Orthodox Christian flavor. By late Saturday night, on the eve before Easter, the people spill from their churches and fill the main square with a palpable sense of expectation.

When midnight strikes, fireworks light up the sky, and finally, Easter Sunday is here. The Holy Flame, which literally travels from Jerusalem to Athens and then to towns throughout Greece, is shared along with the ritual Easter “kiss of love.” And it’s not over yet: Everyone then heads home for the biggest party of the season.

People carry the Easter flame home as a burning candle. Raising it above their heads, they make a cross above the doorway — symbolizing that the light of the Resurrection has blessed their home for another year.

A long table awaits as the extended family gathers. They have a competition to find out whose Easter egg will be the strongest. Sighs of disappointment from losers are mixed with the laughter of winners until the proud victor — who’ll enjoy a particularly blessed upcoming year — is declared. It’s a joyous family gathering.

The feast continues into the wee hours of Easter Sunday with lots of meat and eggs, and no shortage of Easter bread. And the feasting continues after a little sleep. By the afternoon, in villages all across Greece, families are grilling lamb, eating, singing, and dancing. It seems there’s a spring lamb on a spit in every back yard. The roast takes hours…but no one’s in a hurry.

It’s an all-day affair. People move between households checking on each other’s lambs, and socializing. When the spit stops, the feast begins: Lamb off the bone, lamb off the fingers, beer, wine, music, more food, more family fun…more lamb. People party all day long.

Eventually the village ends up back at the church, dancing and singing. Together they celebrate — as they have every year for all their lives. Celebrating the hope of renewal at yet another joyous Easter Sunday.