Easter from a Greek Orthodox Mom’s View


I remember the first time I stepped into a Greek Orthodox church.

If you’ve never been inside an Orthodox church or witnessed a Divine Liturgy, I hope my words encourage you to experience it for yourself at least once in your lifetime. 

Your eyes are immediately taken by the beauty of the ornate icons. A feeling of warmth comes from the lit candles in the Narthex, the smell of incense fills the air, and the sound of the choir and chanters brings a melody to the priest’s words. You feel as if you have taken a time capsule back to an ancient time. 

This is a photo from our wedding at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Pensacola.

While I learned to appreciate all of the richness and meaning woven into Orthodoxy as my understanding grew, it was not until I attended the midnight service on Saturday night of Holy Week (Anastasi) that I truly felt connected to the religion. Then, when I became a mother, I felt a deep sense of responsibility to give my children a good foundation from a young age.

Below are some of the main traditions associated with each day of Holy Week in the Greek Orthodox Church

My hope in sharing is that you will gain a greater appreciation for the significance behind Easter while also providing a glimpse into a religion that many may not be familiar with.

One of the most obvious differences between Greek Easter and traditional Easter is the date on which it happens. The Greek Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar, so Greek Easter is usually a week later than traditional Easter. However, this year it is over a month apart!

One of the main ‘perks’ of having a later holiday was that we always hit the jackpot for the Easter candy discounts! But no such luck this year…LOL

As a mom who wasn’t born into this religion, I’ve enjoyed finding resources for teaching your children about Orthodoxy that have helped me learn along the way, too! Here is a link for one of my favorite Greek Orthodox moms to gain inspiration from if you would like to learn more!


Holy Week Traditions

This week is essentially a retelling of Jesus’ last week on Earth, beginning on Palm Sunday and ending on Easter Sunday (Pascha). Here are a few traditions tied to each day of the week in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Palm Sunday

This is one of the most celebrated Feast Days of the year! The church is decorated with palm fronds, and tiny woven palm crosses are given to everyone to represent the warm welcome that Jesus received when he arrived in Jerusalem.

Folding the palm crosses the week before is a church activity shared with everyone’s families. 

Our daughters from last year’s Palm Sunday

Holy Wednesday

Families attend the church service together and receive Holy Unction. As Catholics have Ash Wednesday, Greek Orthodox followers receive holy oil that the priest places on their foreheads and the front and back of their hands. 

Holy Thursday

While Easter typically brings to mind pastel colors and colorful dyed eggs, Greek Orthodox families only dye eggs a deep red. The egg itself represents the tomb in which Jesus was buried, while the red dye represents Jesus’ blood shed for our salvation. Achieving the perfect red is quite the process; many have their own method, and there is an unspoken status given to those who can achieve the coveted deep red color (In case you were wondering, I’ve yet to achieve that status!).

Once dried, the eggs are rubbed with olive oil to give a glossy sheen. 

Red eggs and easter bread served on a board
photo credit: Canva, Yogendra Singh

Today is also the day the kiddos can help make Koulourakia (Greek Easter cookies).

Here’s a recipe I like in case you want to give it a try: https://www.mygreekdish.com/recipe/koulourakia-recipe-greek-easter-cookies/

Holy Friday

This is a day of mourning, and all of the services are referred to as lamentations. Outside of the services, the ladies of the church decorate the Epitaph, which represents the tomb of Jesus. A retreat is held for the children, similar to Good Friday events. The first service represents Jesus dying and being taken down from the cross. The figure of Jesus is then placed in the Epitaph, and the children all place flower petals around. 

The Epitaph at the beginning of the service before Jesus is taken down from the cross.

The second service is one many of the locals in our area may be familiar with. This is when the procession around the outside of the church takes place to represent Jesus being carried to the tomb. The young girls of the church wear white dresses and place flower petals throughout the procession to represent the Myrrhbearing women. The Epitaph is carried for the procession around the church, and then each person has the opportunity to re-enter the church under the Epitaph. 

Excited for their first year as Myrhhbearers!

Easter Weekend

The most commonly attended service is the Resurrection service or Anastasi. Everyone enters the church with their Easter candles. As the service begins, all of the lights are turned off, and the candles are blown out. Everyone waits in the dark in anticipation of hearing the priest begin the resurrection chant, “Christos Anesti,” and the light of the first candle is seen and then shared to each person within the church. After all of the candles are lit, a procession outside leads to everyone chanting together.

This past year, we brought both girls for the first time, and only our youngest made it to midnight. It was still special to share the experience with them, even if one of the girls was asleep. 

The light of the the Resurrection

Everyone breaks their fast with Magiritza (lamb soup) and brings the holy light home with them. It’s customary for the man of the house to go to all entrances into the home and make the sign of the cross with the flame on the easements. From here, you light a long burning candle from the holy light and try to keep it burning through the night.

(I think I’ve exceeded my word count at this point; otherwise, I would share how Stelios and I learned that holding the candle in an insulated cup is NOT on the safe options list. But suffice it to say, we still laugh every year thinking of that night!)

On Pascha (Easter Sunday), the church holds Divine Liturgy, and then we have a family picnic afterward. The kids enjoy a traditional Easter egg hunt, and we all receive a red egg for the egg-cracking contest. Each person takes a turn hitting their egg on the other’s. The person whose egg remains uncracked at the end is said to have a special blessing for the upcoming year.

For the next 40 days, everyone begins a greeting with “Christo Anesti” or “Christ is Risen,” and in response, you reply “Alithos Anesti” or “Truly He is Risen.” 

I hope you enjoyed reading about how Easter is celebrated in the Greek Orthodox Church.

And in case you are wondering, I end my Holy Week in the same way as every other mom…Lying in bed, tired and smiling, as I scroll through the memories created within my own little family.



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