It’s Orthodox Easter this Sunday, which is an important celebration for people of Orthodox faith including those from Egyptian, Greek, Russian, Serbian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Cypriot, Lebanese, Romanian and Ukrainian communities.
ONJ Centre Medical Oncologist and Research Fellow, Dr Georgios Iatropoulos, shares the special Greek Orthodox Easter customs his family practices during this time.
“I grew up in South Africa where there is a big Greek Community, and then moved to Greece to complete high school," says Dr Iatropoulos.
“I moved to the UK to study and this is where I met my wife, Filia Garivaldis. Filia is a Senior Psychology Lecturer at Monash University, and together we have two young children.
“Orthodox Easter is just as important as Christmas to us.
“Easter in Australia is very similar to Easter in Greece. There are many churches in Melbourne and we have big Greek community, which makes it easier to remain connected to our religion, traditions and culture.”
George shares how his family prepares and celebrates the lead-up to Orthodox Easter.
“This day is known as Holy Thursday. It’s a time to get together with your family and bake sweet Easter bread “tsoureki” and Easter cookies “koulourakia”.
“This leaves the house smelling really great.
“We also boil eggs and dye them red to represent the blood of Christ. The hard shell symbolises the Tomb of Christ.”
“On this day, my wife and I share the story of Jesus Christ with our children. It’s important to us that they learn about our religion and understand our traditions.”
“Today is Orthodox Good Friday. We will go to Church at around 8pm on this day to take part in the funeral procession for Jesus Christ.
“There is a large “epitaphios” which is a richly embroidered cloth that bears the image of Jesus. This is carried in a large wooden structure that is decorated with flowers and is carried around the local streets of the Church.
“Church goers will follow the epitaphios, while holding lit candles.”
“On this day we will be at Church until midnight.
“During the sermon, the priest will share the flame of resurrection with church goers.
“Everyone brings their own candle and the flame is on passed from person to person. We will take this lit candle home and use the flame to mark a cross outside our front door.
“As soon as we arrive home, we will enjoy a bowl of chicken or meatball soup that will help break 40 day fast from meat.”
“Easter Sunday is a big celebration.
“The children get to wear their new outfits. There is music, good food and quality time spent with family and friends.
"We'll enjoy a delicious lamb on the spit or have a barbaque.
“We will also play a game with the red eggs which we had boiled on Thursday.
“To play, each player holds a red egg and taps it lightly against the other player’s egg. When one end of the egg is cracked, the person with the unbroken egg uses the same end of the egg to crack another opponent’s egg.
“When cracking the egg one person says “Christos Anesti” meaning ‘Christ has risen!’ and the other person says “Alithos anesti” which means ‘indeed, he has risen!’”