The 7 Coolest Greek Easter Traditions to Incorporate Into Your Own Celebration

Church bells and red eggs

greek-easter-traditions: a loaf of greek eater bread and red eggs.
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Many of us will be celebrating Easter on March 31st this year and are already shopping for Easter basket stuffers and gifts. The same isn’t true for folks who follow the Orthodox calendar, however. In Greece, where Orthodox is the main sect, the holiday is always celebrated after Passover and tends to occur a little bit later in spring. (This year, Greek Orthodox Easter falls on May 5.) It also turns out that Orthodox Easter is celebrated slightly differently, so read on for some unique Greek Easter traditions; then, go ahead and incorporate some of them into your own festivities or celebrate twice if you please.

How Is Greek Orthodox Easter Different from Western Easter?

If it’s all Greek to you, we can explain. While both Greek Orthodox Easter and Western Easter celebrate the same miraculous religious event (i.e., the resurrection of Christ), the different sects, Eastern Orthodox vs. Western, do so on a different calendar—the Julian and Gregorian, respectively. According to, the Greek Orthodox holiday always falls on a date determined by the Julian calendar, which was established by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C. based on solar cycles. As such, the dates rarely correspond with the Gregorian calendar, which was created well after by Pope Gregory XIII with the intention of correcting inaccuracies (hence the leap year business). Complicated calendars aside, there are also some slight differences in the tradition—namely due to the standard cultural differences and the ways in which traditions evolve, including different biblical interpretations and some older pagan roots.

greek-easter-traditions: a loaf of greek eater bread.
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1. Baking Tsoureki

Tsoureki—a sumptuous sweet bread—is an Easter staple in Greece that everyone either makes or buys. You can find it stateside, too, if you know where to look and what to look for. (Hint: it has three braids that represent the Holy Trinity and is sometimes cut into the shape of the cross.) Or, if you have baking ambitions, you can find a recipe here.

greek-easter-traditions: dyed red eggs.
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2. Dying Red Eggs

The Easter egg tradition is a little darker (literally and figuratively) in Greece. Indeed, pastel-colored eggs are decidedly not a part of the tradition; instead, eggs are dyed a deep red color to symbolize the blood of Christ, with the hard shell of the egg symbolizing his tomb. According to, these eggs are also key to a common Easter game, in which they are stacked and sometimes cracked to the tune of some religious chanting: “Christos Anesti” and “Alithos Anesti” (i.e., “Christ has risen” and “Indeed, he has”). The person with the cracked egg is considered the loser, while the person with the strong, uncracked egg is said to have good luck for the year.

greek-easter-traditions: a bowl of sour cucumber and dill soup.
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3. Eating Magiritsa

This yummy soup, often simply called Easter soup, consists of lamb offal (i.e., heart, liver, lungs, etc.), dill, onion and green vegetables. It’s typically enjoyed on Holy Saturday, after the aforementioned egg cracking game, and symbolizes the end of the 40 day no-meat fast. It’s a tasty precursor to the next festive culinary event and is intended to gradually reintroduce meat to one’s digestive system. (Psst: You can find a recipe here.)

greek-easter-traditions: a cooked rack of lamb.
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4. Roasting the Lamb

Soup on Holy Saturday is great, but the lamb feast on Holy Sunday is the bee’s knees—namely because it involves a long lunch of spit-roasted lamb with potatoes, salad and more.

greek-easter-traditions: a stone tomb.
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5. Church Bells, Flags and the Tomb of Jesus

Here, a more solemn tradition that takes place on Good Friday with church bells ringing and flags flying at half mast. In fact, it’s not unusual for some villages in Greece to create a shrine representing the tomb of Jesus that is carried onto the streets—a religious ceremony that communicates the significance of the occasion.

greek-easter-traditions: iron candle sticks.
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6. Going to Midnight Church Service

When Saturday turns into Holy Sunday at the stroke of midnight, church services are held to rejoice in the resurrection of Christ. These celebrations include fireworks and candle vigils; the priests’ candles symbolize the eternal flame and those of the revelers, lit by a priest’s candle, are brought home to make a black cross above the entrance of their home as a blessing.

greek-easter-traditions: greek olive oil cookies.
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7. Eating Koulourakia

Here, a sweet treat to celebrate the holiday: Koulourakia are cookies that are made with grape must, extra virgin olive oil, orange and ouzo. Crisp on the outside and soft within, this prized dessert is a Greek holiday staple.

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