Greek Easter in Arachova!
Updated: Aug 10
Greek Easter (Pascha), always associated with Spring, is definitely my favorite Greek holiday. For the Greeks it’s a most sacred holiday filled with deeply-rooted religious ceremonies and many traditional festivities enjoyed with family and friends. For me personally, it’s a time when I strictly adhere to Greek customs which are truly unique and not only allow you to better understand the magical spiritual side of Easter but also showcases the vibrant character of the Greek people!
I have spent Easter in many parts of Greece and, apart from memorable family gatherings with my husband’s family in Thessaly, one of the loveliest Easter feasts I have enjoyed was in Arachova, a small mountain town built on the northern slopes of Mount Parnassos, 157km away from Athens.
Here, together with friends and locals, we experienced an exceptional Easter Sunday which started before dawn with the preparations for the traditional pit cooking of seemingly endless Easter lambs; sometimes more than 10 lambs being cooked over each pit.
For the pit cooking, we watched as vine-branches were gathered in every section of the town, which was then followed by the lighting of the fire and the poking of the branches. We were told that this was something normally left to the town’s senior experts as this process needs special skills and experience to prevent the wood from being reduced to ashes!
When the fire is ready, and the spits are put to work, everybody sits around the pit, turning the spits, chatting and singing while local women treat their compatriots and all passers-by to tasty homemade meze, local feta and formaella cheese varieties, wine, ouzo and red eggs.
The cooking of the lambs takes about 4–5 hours and nobody leaves the cooking ground unless given special permission by the oldest and most expert pit cook, and only after the hymn of “Christ has Risen” has been sung!
As my husband and I walked through the many quaint town streets we were amazed at the friendly and gracious hospitality of the locals and, of course, the number of cooking pits that fill the air with the smoky scent of roasting meat. If you look over the small town from high ground you will get the impression that the town might actually go up in smoke!
After much eating and drinking, the celebrations culminate with dancing and singing and everybody wishes each other Happy Easter!