We arrived in Athens after four months in Israel on May 1. It was just after midnight, the start of the Greek Orthodox Easter. Fortunately, the taxi driver didn’t mind piling five people and five carry-ons into a Skoda for the ride downtown. Within minutes, the kids fell asleep on top of each other, and on me, which made for a peaceful ride. Near the center, churches were just letting out and hundreds of candles floated by. People were cradling these lights, protecting the flames from the breeze.
We checked into a family room at the top floor of the Art Gallery Hotel. From our little balcony, we could just see the lit Acropolis. It was after one o’clock by now, but in the apartments across the street lights were still burning. A family was sitting down to eat the traditional Magiritsa soup made from lamb off.
Greeks also eat red, hard-boiled eggs. In the Orthodox tradition, eggs are a symbol of new life. The red represents life, victory and the blood of Jesus Christ. The hard-boiled eggs are used to play a simple game. Two participants each hold a red egg in their hands. One player says “Chistos Anesti” (Christ has risen) and the other replies, “Alithos Anesti” (Indeed He has risen). Then they tap each other’s egg trying to break it. The winner battles the next person.The player who successfully cracks the eggs of the other players gets declared the winner and, it is said, will have good luck during the year. Our hotel owner taught us the game the next morning over breakfast.
Most attractions were closed because of the holidays, but everywhere in town lambs were roasting on the spit. Greeks go vegan during the forty-day lent preceding Easter. They refrain from eating meat, eggs or milk products, but make up for it with a meat orgy on Easter. We tried the lamb too, but it was a bit fat for our taste. All in all, arriving in Greece on Easter, made our return to traveling feel magical, like a rite of passage, a symbol of new life.