It’s been a week since Lent began. However, Lent is a little later for those of us who celebrate Greek or Orthodox Easter.
Mardi Gras, Paczki Day, Fat Tuesday are a all a prelude to Ash Wednesday or the beginning of Lent - we’ll for some.
We, of the Greek Orthodox tradition, are used to celebrating Easter later in the Spring season. There are times when they cross paths, and those who are of two faiths lose out on an Easter dinner, but it’s rare and far between.
In 2016, the Greeks are celebrating Easter a full 5 weeks after most the other Christians do.
Now, just because there are two different dates for Easter, it doesn’t mean that there is a special Orthodox Mardi Gras. In fact we, in the Eastern Orthodox Church do not, in general, observe Ash Wednesday; instead, Orthodox Great Lent begins on Clean Monday - this year on March 14.
And just because Greek Easter is after the mainstream celebration, it doesn’t mean that the Easter Bunny forgets us. In fact, we have our own ‘Egg Game’.
On the first hours of Easter Sunday, no literally just after midnight, and right after “Christ has risen” we crack red eggs. This tradition has the symbolism of resurrection and new life. Easter eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ, shed on the Cross, and the hard shell of the egg symbolizes the sealed Tomb of Christ—the cracking of which symbolizes his resurrection from the dead.
The game is called tsougrisma (τσουγκρισμα in Greek) and it involves two players and red eggs. Each player holds a red egg, and one taps the end of her/his egg lightly against the end of the other player’s egg. The goal is to crack the opponent’s egg. When one end is cracked, the winner uses the same end of her/his egg to try to crack the other end of the opponent’s egg. The player who successfully cracks the eggs of the other players is declared the winner and, it is said, will have good luck during the year.
But, ya know, the best luck of all is that Greek Easter is AFTER mainstream because it’s then that the stores put the Cadbury Creme Eggs and all the Peeps on sale. Greeks can appreciate a deal.