A Tale of Two Easters: Celebrating My Greek Culture

Growing up Greek meant that I celebrated Easter a little differently.

Every four years, Eastern Orthodox Easter, Western Protestant Easter, and Catholic Easter overlap on the same Sunday. However, other years it can fall anywhere from one, two, or even four weeks later: as it does this year.

This is due to a change in the calendar used to determine the date of Easter. Without getting into too many historical details, Pope Gregory XIII changed the Julian calendar in 1583 to the Gregorian Calendar. Eastern Orthodox continues to use the Julian calendar which indicates Easter must be the first Sunday after the first full moon in the spring after the Jewish Passover. The Gregorian Calendar (a reform of the Julian calendar) used by much of the world, does not require this.

So some years I didn’t celebrate Easter when all my friends did.

Because my entire family is Greek, this was no big deal. We all just went to church and celebrated together when it was our Easter. My mother also appreciated that she could shop all the discounted Easter candy the next day! 

Sharing Greek Orthodox Easter Traditions

When I moved to North Dakota 11 years ago, I immediately wanted to start a tradition of hosting Greek Easter dinner for our friends. Knowing they’d all be with family for their Easter, it was my Spring take on “Friendsgiving.” And they were in!

Every year (minus the spring our twins were born and COVID) I’ve hosted our friends to a Greek feast. I serve a variety of dishes from roast lamb to moussaka, spanakopita to baklava, and of course Greek salad.

Other than food, I introduced them to the tradition of “cracking the eggs.” Each person brings a hard boiled egg decorated however they’d like; although Orthodox tradition is to dye them red to represent the blood of Christ. During dinner, we compete against one another, cracking our eggs “head to head” or, “butt to butt.” We keep doing this until only one person is left with an un-cracked end; like a double elimination tournament.

This became a wonderful way for me to celebrate old traditions away from my church and family, while also introducing new traditions to my friends.

Celebrating with Kids two Easters

Now that I have my own Greek Orthodox children, I’m considering how to approach this holiday. Up until now, they’ve been young enough to be mostly unaware that there is even a difference. However, as we start to approach Easter this year (or “American Easter” as the Greeks call it), they are getting more excited about the Easter Bunny coming. Of course I know there’s more to Easter than just the bunny.

Easter holds a special place in my heart because I met my husband and also my twins were born on Easter weekends.

And it’s also my favorite holiday as far as our church services go. The service is late, which already adds to the allure. Close to midnight, the lights are all turned off. Everyone is already holding an unlit white tapered candle. The priest makes his way down the center, lighting the end of each row with his candle. Then each person lights the candle next to them until the entire church is illuminated. It’s beautiful.

Unfortunately, there are no Greek Orthodox churches within a three-hour radius of here so we do what we can with books and YouTube. 

Room for Both Traditions

As the holiday approaches, I’ve considered just letting my twins be part of the majority here, and have the bunny come on the same day as everyone else. But then I feel a sense of shame that I’m denying them part of what makes them so special, being Greek Orthodox.

When I think about what’s most important when it comes to traditions, I think it’s not just the concept of continuation, but the beautiful blending of cultures too. There’s no need to have to choose, and certainly creating your own traditions is an option. My kids will always celebrate American Easter with the other side of the family, but they can exist in a world that allows space for both traditions to coincide, even simultaneously. And the discount candy is always an added bonus! 

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Katina grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and played field hockey at the University of Connecticut, and has never been in as good of shape since. She met her husband, Justin, at a bar in Pittsburgh and, despite many romantic Skype dates, found a long-distance relationship to be a drag and moved to Fargo in 2010. She's a bonus mom to Justin's son, Owen (2005), and they have twins Augie and Delphi (2016) and two Great Danes, Rainy and Moose. She's a Speech-Language Pathologist and Certified Brain Injury Specialist who enjoys helping her patients improve their quality of life. She loves showing the world to her kids (but also seeing the world through their eyes), trying new foods, listening to live music and publicly mocking her little brother on Instagram. On most weekends, you can find her at one of her kids' many activities by day, and by night on the couch in sweats, eating a homemade charcuterie board and drinking expensive wine someone else bought. She still has Skype dates, but now they're with friends and family who live all over the place.

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