Fond Memories of Greek Easter in Thessaloniki

 

greekeaster

This coming  weekend  marks the culmination of  Greek  Easter  and John and I still have very  fond memories of  the  times we spent with our friends, the Papazopoulo family, in Thessaloniki.

 

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logo-greenwichI first met Stella-Marie Papazopoulo when I was studying at the University of Greenwich.  During  the summer break I worked in the Enquiries department of the University and part of my job was to reassure  and answer any  questions that prospective students and their families may have. 

 

greek orthodox churchStella-Maria and her friend Katerina had applied to study English Literature and I helped them  to find accommodation (strangely enough very close to the Greek Orthodox Church in Upper Wickham Lane).

Over the years we became very close friends with Stella-Maria’s  family. Her mother Aggeliki, her father Thomas and her brother Constantinos all visited us in London a couple of times.  We were also fortunate enough to attend  both Stella-Maria’s and Constantinos weddings in Thessaloniki.

 

1-red eggs2Greek Easter is a wonderful event and I always remember Thomas teaching us how to play a game with red eggs called ‘tsougrisma’  (the translation of the name means clinking or clanking).  The red eggs (kokkina avga) represent the blood and rebirth of Christ and the eggs are dyed by boiling them in onion skins.  It is very similar to playing conkers and the aim of the game is to crack the opponents egg. For some reason Thomas always seemed to beat me.   

 

On Holy  Saturday Mama prepared ‘Mayritsa’,  a traditional Greek greek easter soupsoup made from lamb or kids offal that is eaten after midnight  and signals the breaking of the fast.Just before midnight the soup  was left on a very low light and we  made our way to church to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

The Greek orthodox church plays a significant role in the lead up to Easter and  the holiday is more important than Christmas.  When we arrived at the church it was full to overflowing and we had to listen to the service from outside the doors. After the service people left the church to the sound of church bells pealing  and drums beating.  Then there was a seemingly never ending procession of  people with lighted candles making their way home.  As they went they greeted  each other with ‘Christos Aresti’ (Christ is risen) and the response came back ‘Alisthos Anesti’ (Truly, he is risen).  I can’t begin to describe how moving this scene was. When we got home Mama made the sign of the cross  on the front door with the blackened end of the candle.

lamb on spit

We always  had very happy times when we visited  Thessaloniki and the hospitality we received was second to none.  We became members of the Papazopoulo family.   Mama’s sister and her husband Nico,  we called her the ‘General’ because she had a very loud booming voice but a heart as big as her voice,  took us eveywhere even to the Royal Tombs of Vergina  in the foothills of Mount Pieria. 

halkidiki

I will always remember  the day we spent on the beach in Halkidiki.  We went to a taverna for a late lunch in the afternoon  and Thomas ordered  food for all of us to share (9-10 people).  The food arrived and was placed in the centre of the table.  I helped myself  to one chip  and  before I knew it all the food had disappeared.  I didn’t get a thing. It doesn’t  do to be a slow eater like me when in Greece.   

Sadly,  Nicos and Thomas are no longer with us but I am sure they are remembering the good times.  In their memory  I would like to bequeath  this post to them.

Αναπαύσου εν ειρήνη

Here’s wishing all of the Papazopoulo family and everyone else

   ‘Kala Paska’

 

 

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