Growing up in America in a Greek family I felt like I could always relate to my Jewish brothers, well my friends from school. Practicing a different religion than mainstream or Western Christianity provided us the opportunity to celebrate the commercial version of a holiday as well as the religious. For my Hebrew friends it was Christmas and Hanukkah; for me it was Easter. Yes, just one holiday but 99% of the time celebrated weeks apart.
Easter, itself, is a moving holiday for both the Western Christian and the Eastern Orthodox churches. It is static if you consider that the holiday is celebrated the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. What varies in the religions is the identification of the vernal equinox. The basis for much of the world is the Gregorian calendar, but the Orthodox are still using the Julian version.
So, you see, except for the rare times when Orthodox and Western Christian Easter fall on the same Sunday, we Greek Americans get to celebrate Easter - and all the commercial benefits therein - TWICE.
In our family we officially only celebrated Easter once. On Orthodox Easter Sunday we’d attend church (as we would each Sunday) and then come home to a great Greek feast. This feast would include our local relatives and some various and sundry friends from the Ann Arbor area.
A lamb would be on the spit, the men would be smoking cigars and drinking Ouzo all the while cutting slim pieces of the meat off for a tasting. The women would be in the kitchen preparing all the balance of the meal including pastiso, baked chicken, dolmaldes, and a slew of green and creamed salads. This all the while as the kids played in the basement.
Once the meal was complete, Yia Yia would bring out the eggs - hard boiled and dyed DARK red. It was time to play tsougrisma. The rule of the game is simple. One holds a hard-boiled egg and taps the egg of another participant with one's own egg intending to break the other's, without breaking one's own. It seems like Yia Yia always won, and still today we wonder if she had a wooden egg.
Finally, what would Easter be without candy? For us Greeks, who truly respect saving a penny here and there, candy was always on SALE by the time we needed it for our celebrations. Even if it was weeks after the Western holiday do PEEPS really ever get stale?
It has been proposed, numerous times, to create a set day for Easter - second Sunday in April for example - but a consensus among the Christian churches has yet to be met. Maybe that’s because those of the Orthodox faith recognize the ‘true’ benefit of two holidays, two celebrations and a 50% saving.