Better Late Than Never

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XRISTOS ANESTI ! to all.

I know I am a few days late but it resonates over the week don’t you think? I’ve just looked up when Ascension day is and it isn’t until the end of May so if He hasn’t yet ascended Christ must still be risen?  For those not familiar with the term it is the greeting given to all you meet after the midnight service on Easter saturday at the Greek Orthodox church. It translates as “Christ is risen” and the response is ” Alithos Anesti” he is truly risen. Easter is the most dramatic celebration in the Greek Orthodox calendar and one can see why it is such a loved part of the year. For some reason I had a great desire to be there and join in the preparations and celebrations this year, although I have only been present at Easter time in Cyprus, once. The preparations made and anticipation experienced in the days preceding Easter are akin to how the Western world prepare for Christmas or in the States, Thanksgiving but without the materialism.

Lent is the time of spiritual preparation and contemplation of the soul while abstaining from rich food and ‘sins of the flesh.’ Piles of flaounes are made along with the batches of ‘koulourakia‘ biscuits in the week before Easter using many of  those forbidden foods; eggs,cheese, milk, butter; the devouring of which are are eagerly anticipated on Easter day . The church is prepared with masses of flowers adorning the sepulchre. Then the dramatic service at midnight when the church is put into darkness, the congregation all light candles and walk around the church three times, on their return the icons have had all the black coverings removed and a bonfire is lit outside. The day itself is when a feast of souvla is cooked and once again meat can be eaten and savoured after abstinence. Even non- participants of all the rigours of religious practice and rituals before the day, all revel in the celebrations that come with the arrival of the day, a time to be spent with friends and family enjoying good food.

This time of year has been celebrated throughout millennia when the days grow longer and the earth awakens from its slumbers, the sun growing stronger to warm the ground where green shoots appear once again, and the food cycle starts once more . Easter in pagan times was a time of worship of Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, love and war so the egg would be a very apt symbol for this, some say this is where the word Easter came from. Many Christian celebratory dates were placed to coincide with the pagan ceremonies in order to encourage people to to convert to Christianity without losing any of the festivals.

Whatever your belief you share may your days be filled with joy. Xristos Anesti!!!

 

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