Easter Customs:
Easter is the richest holiday in folkloric manifestations. The Maronite Community usually celebrates Easter with certain traditions which add, with their originality and variety, a different colour to the spirit of the days. It is noticeable also the fact that during this period the Maronites choose to visit their villages for the rejuvenation of these customs and traditions.

 

On Ash Monday, also know as Green Monday, the first day of the Great Lent, the priest, during the holy mass, blesses the ash by a special prayer and kneads it with holy water. At the end of the mass the people pass in front of the priest who makes the sign of the cross on their forehead saying “Remember that you come from the Earth and you will return to Earth”. The common term for this day, in Greek translated as “Clean Monday,” refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and to the preparation for repentance a few days before the Crucifixion of Jesus. After this, the Maronites go to their villages and the fields to celebrate the beginning of the Great Lent.

 

A special Maronite tradition takes place on Saturday called “St Lazarous day” in the Maronite villages.  The teachers, or a priest, together with a group of pupils use to go round the houses playing the scene of the resurrection of Lazarous from the dead. A youngster with many flowers called “lazarous” hanging round his head lies down on the ground pretending Lazarous dead. Two girls pretending they are his sisters, dressed in black, kneel down on either side while the pupils sing the “song of Lazarous”. People use to give money, candies or fruit to the children for their performance.

 

On Palm Sunday, which is a Christian moveable feast which always falls on the Sunday before the Easter, the custom is to cut branches of olive trees and take them to church while the youngsters hold branches of palms decorated with flowers. The feast commemorates an event alleged by all four Canonical Gospels: the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem in the days before his Passion. The priests, in a special prayer, bless the olive branches which the Maronites take to their homes and are used by the ladies to adulate the house daily. In the villages the housewives used to bless with the olive leaves saying a prayer which seems to have its origin in paganistic time since it refers to the sun asking him to «take the “bad spirit” and drop it in the sea».

 

The Holy Week is of special importance to the Maronites and is rich in customs and traditions. The three first days of the Holy Week the Maronites attend an evening mass which they call “Road of the Cross” since in a special celebration and prayers they accompany Jesus to the Cross.

 

On Holy Thursday the preparations for Easter are intensified. The housewives have in the programme to clean their houses and prepare themselves for the baking of the traditional “coulouria” and “flaounes”. Most housewives still bake their traditional pastries in the traditional ovens of nearly every house in the village. Original custom with roots in the Roman Catholic Church is the reconstruction of the Last Supper on the night of Holy Thursday. The priest washes and kisses the feet of twelve pupils who pretend to be Jesus disciples.

 

On Good Friday the Epitaph is decorated and at 12 o’clock the church bells ring mournfully. During the day the Maronites go to church to pray their respects to the Crucified Christ offering him flowers. During the mass, the priests read about the Passion of Christ. After this follows the holy procession in the main streets of the village and the church bells ring mournfully. During the procession the housewives adulate the priests and the people when passing outside their houses.

 

On Easter Saturday the preparations for the big occasion intensify. The housewives paint the eggs various colours which they will knock on Easter Sunday after the midnight mass. In the villages, the housewives used traditional ways to paint their eggs; when they wanted to paint them red they would use wild roots which they boiled, when they would decide to paint them yellow they would use yellow daises from the fields. Also tradition says that the youngsters of the village would prepare a large pile of wood, the so called «lambradja» on which pile they would put an imitation of Judah the Iscariot and burn him in order to punish him because he betrayed Jesus. According to tradition before the midnight mass the youngsters use to go round the houses singing a special song (drashila). The housewives offer them money, candies and fruits. At the end of the holy mass the holy procession round the church takes place. The Maronites, after they pay their respects to the resurrected Christ and exchange wishes («Christos Anesti») they hurry home where the hot «avgolemoni» soup and boiled chicken is expecting them.

 

The resurrection of Christ is celebrated by the conventional Easter feast on Easter Sunday. Every year on Easter Sunday various Easter games take place in the middle of the village and the church yard.