Easter is by far the most important celebration on the Greek Orthodox calendar and it is an especially exciting time to be present in Greece and to have the chance to share in the traditions that have been handed down for generations in this country. The word "pascha" comes from the Hebrew for "passover". This Jewish feast celebrating the liberation from Egyptian slavery was adopted by the Christian Church to commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The Orthodox faithful have been fasting throughout the Lenten period leading up to Easter in order to be properly prepared to participate in the ceremonies of this "Feast of Feasts".
The Holy Week commences after Palm Sunday, this year on April 4th, the day on which Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem is celebrated. Each day of the Holy Week has a special meaning and liturgies performed at the church, leading up to the re-enactment of the death of Christ on Good Friday when the "epitaphios" (funeral bier) is carried through the street in a candlelit procession. Marpissa is famous for its Good Friday "parastasis" - the depiction of scenes from the Bible of the last hours of Christ's life.
On Holy, or Great, Saturday everyone gathers at the church for midnight when the priest brings a lighted candle representing Christ as the Light of the world to the assembled crowd. The greetings of "Christos Anesti" (Christ has risen) and the response "Alithos Anesti" (Indeed, He is risen) are drowned out by the noise of firework explosions erupting all around, candles are lit from the holy flame and everyone carries the light home to burn the sign of the cross over their doorways. The fast is broken with a midnight supper of the traditional "mageiritsa" soup made from the innards of the lamb that will be cooked on a spit outdoors in the traditional way the following day. KALO PASCHA!