Happy Orthodox Easter

It’s (finally) Orthodox Easter!

Χριστός ανέστη! Αληθώς ανέστη!
(Christ has risen! Indeed He is risen! – the traditional Paschal greeting and response of Eastern Christians and what everyone has been saying to each other since last night.)

We spent all of yesterday evening listening to the church bells ringing and to the kids in town setting off fireworks, while they guarded the village bonfire. One of them stopped by the house and explained that they have to guard it, otherwise the boys from the neighbouring town will come and steal the firewood for their own bonfire. And, when our village’s rep is at stake, they can’t possibly take any chances.

He even begrudgingly acknowledged that the bonfire we’d made at home was pretty good… and it was. We lit it at around 11:00pm. We didn’t have an effigy of Judas to burn – a common tradition, though I find it terribly anachronistic since he was supposed to have hung himself – but our bonfire was huge and, at its peak, the flames were taller than the house. Afterwards, we gorged ourselves on tasty meat that we cooked with the embers from the fire.

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Having lived in the USA, where Christmas is by far the bigger holiday, and in the UK, where Easter is mostly seen as an excuse to eat too much chocolate, it has been refreshing to see how seriously the Cypriots take Easter. They don’t play around: lots of people fast, churches are packed and decorations are everywhere up and down the streets. And, in fact, one of the things I most enjoyed this year in the run-up to Orthodox Easter was the crazy street decorations.

The street decorations seem to fall into different categories. The first is the egg category. These are just huge Easter eggs, of varying colors but usually red, that read “Good Easter”. They are festive, cute, and the most tasteful of the decorations:

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But then there is the category of decorations which I call the scary “chickens”. The quotations are necessary because if you didn’t know any better they might be mistaken for rabid ostriches.

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Here is a charming Easter emu.
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And a rhea playing peek-a-boo out of an Easter egg.
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Beware venturing into the village square, for fear of an angry ostrich army attacking.

Then there are the ones that look more like miserable wookiees. These are usually emerging from eggs, newly born but full of ennui:

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“I hate everything and look a bit like Marlon Brando. By the way, Happy Easter.”
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Is that blood dripping down the side of its mouth?

There is also the ex-Christmas display category of decorations. While still nice and in the spirit of things, it is clear that the κοινοτικό συμβούλιο (community council) felt the need to buy some gently used Christmas decorations – and who can blame them in this economy!?

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That is definitely a sprig of holly.
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Jingle bells, jingle bells…
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Don’t let the tasteful egg fool you, if you look carefully, there are wreaths hanging off the back of the candles.

Despite my slight culture shock at the sometimes questionable decorations, it has been really nice celebrating two Easters this year. It has certainly made me appreciate both traditions, and it’s been interesting to see the similarities and the differences in the celebrations.

But next year, Easter will once again fall on the same day for everyone (April 16, 2017), so I’m really looking forward to creating one meaningful, fun and unified Easter celebration for my family by taking bits and pieces of all our different traditions.

Χρόνια Πολλά! Many years to everyone!

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