Orthodox Easter 2000 (April 31st-May 2nd):
Preparations start long before Easter Sunday.
They have been 'fasting' two days out of every week for the five weeks before. This is their version of Lent. A 'fast' means giving up meat. The whole village eats vegetarian, like us.
Eggs are a huge part of the celebrations. Here, one of the two assistants to the church walks the village collecting eggs for the priest's house from every family.
They stick clover and other small green leaves on their eggs with water. Then tie them up in old stocking material.
Then they make a dye out of boiled onion skins and let the eggs sit in it for five minutes. Where the leaves were green, the red dye leaches through to make yellow.
They also make special Easter bread.
The braids of dough are the baker's artistic outlet.
The tops of the loaves are given a golden glazing of egg yolk using a leaf from the garden.
The final major component of Easter Feast is the lamb.
They start out hauled in huge numbers to the Tirg the Thursday before Easter.
After they decide a price per kilo, up the sheep goes, tied by a string and weighed by a spring.
We learned the meaning of meekness, as we watched "lambs going to the slaughter." After the pig killings of Christmas, lambs are a pushover.
Then the two halves of the lamb's body are stuffed with a sausage made from their innards, and the once a year dish is baked in a wood fired oven.
Finally the day comes, and everyone dresses in their finest Kamashas.
Then we all walk down the village, ...
... scale the hill to our church ...
... carrying the Easter baskets.
They light candles on their graves.
At one time, all the villages celebrated their Easter Mass at midnight. But now that's only done in a few villages and the monasteries. (Nowadays, at midnight most people watch it on TV.)
They range their baskets in a circle.
The priest conducts a service that sanctifies some water. In a neighboring village they sanctify wine.
Inside their baskets are the eggs, bread and lamb for their Easter day's feast. Some families even include their children's jewelry.
Then the priest throws the holy water on all the baskets, conveying God's blessing.
On the day after Easter Sunday, they go back to church.
Women and children wait outside as the three hour service winds on.
Then the Eucharist is given. Like the Anglicans, and unlike the Roman Catholics, not every service includes eating of the body of Christ. So it's a special time to receive the cross on one's forehead and take the bread.
Don't forget to leave your money on the table.
Henry asked the priest if we could take his picture. He said yes, but told us he was in a hurry because he wasn't feeling well. Then he leaned forward and whispered, "diarrhea."
Henry asked "is it from eating lamb?" And the priest nodded.
He was seen running past crowds leaving the church.
As we found out later, he wasn't alone.
With all that fasting and service out of the way, time for the partying to begin.
The boys and the girls hang out in separate groups.
And card games fill the road.
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