Tuesday, 25 April 2006

Greece at it's Easter best

The Easter weekend has gone. Some red painted Easter eggs still roam through the house and the fridge is stuffed with leftovers. Christos Anesti, Christ has risen, are the words said at Easter and we probably said it at least a hundred times. But now normal life is restored.

During the Easter Days there are a lot of traditions to be found. Some are the same everywhere like eating lamb or going to the midnight mass, some are pretty local. On the neighbouring island of Chios they really like it hot. During the Easter night in Vrondados two municipalities shoot fireworks at each other. It is not quite clear where this 300-years old habit comes from, but the main goal is to shoot at each others church towers so that a mighty flow of firecrackers rain down on the village houses and the streets turn into a real war scene. This shooting takes hours and as they are not all good marksmen, it is not unusual that a house gets set on fire.

On Corfu it is also dangerous to spend Easter night. There pottery is thrown out of the windows on to the streets. It is a symbol of throwing the old life away and starting a new one. Well, nice walking those streets...

No tradition but a fancy activity on Cyprus. In the Easter weekend they will start making the longest festoon ever. It will be made out of bras! The campaign is meant to draw attention to breast cancer and the goal is to have tied 100,000 bras by the 30th April, which is 20,000 more than a similar attempt in Singapore.

In Plomari on Lesvos, on Good Friday the churches compete with each other in making the most beautiful holy pieces out of flowers for the procession. So there is indeed a flower parade in the south of Lesvos, it just has a religious background.

In Molyvos this year there was nothing new, except that there were a lot of complaints about too many fireworks. Saturday night around 10, 11 o'clock people went to church and came out of church at 12 to find their way home while trying to escape the fireworks. They took the traditional Easter flame to their homes and ate the majeritsa, a soup of intestines, eggs and lemon. If you want to call it a tradition, in Molyvos on Easter Night they go out. The discos open their doors and people like to get drunk as a skunk and the next morning wearing thick sunglasses they will have the traditional Easter lamb for breakfast. Although this year it was fashionable to eat a goat, stuffed and prepared in the oven.

Like last year we had a lamb on a spit. And many friends (without a hangover) came to join us under the flowering acacia trees. Easter is a family celebration and because many friends have no family here on the island, we come together and drink and eat as much as the Greeks do that day. We tap the red eggs until only one egg remains whole, we eat the lamb and we talk and talk. Only this is done in a kind of mixture of English, German, Greek and Dutch.

It seems our tradition is that the lamb, turned for hours above a smouldering fire (souvla), is ready far too early. And therefore we get up at six in the morning! My last bread was still baking in the oven and the lamb had to be served. Then I didn't even warm up my pancakes filled with vegetables which were to go with the lamb!

Pancakes are not really a tradition in the Greek kitchen. Lately I fiddle a little with the Greek ingredients. As long as you use a lot of olive oil, it will taste a little Greek. This year Greece will promote its olive oil, giving out folders and handing out small bottles of oil to the tourists. But maybe you already have some Greek olive oil in your kitchen. Italy buys a large percentage of the Greek oil and they put it into their own bottles!

It is time that the Greeks do more promotion for their own products. They recently got the name of the sheep cheese feta as an official Greek product name. They want to do the same with tsipouro. Tsipouro is a kind of Greek geneva or eau de vie. They do not drink it often and especially not as much as the Dutch drink their geneva. Home distilled tsipouri can be very tasty, but it can be dangerous as well. After three glasses even a good drinker can turn around on his head. So when leaving the country by plane and you get offered a small bottle of tsipouri instead of olive oil, do not confiscate the ones of your neighbours. In Holland the saying is: a warned person counts as two, and I surely wish somebody warned me the first time I got an enormous bottle...

Copyright © Smitaki 2006

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