The word Velykos, Easter in Lithuanian, means an “important day”. It truly is important to any Lithuanian, as it is time to get away from the routine and spend some time with those who mean the most to you – family and friends.
As well as in many other countries, the egg is a symbol of Easter in Lithuania, and it signifies fertility, life and the awakening of nature in Spring.
Lithuania is all about eggs in Easter! The custom to decorate eggs has spread across the country since XVI century and most Lithuanian families still tend to gather together the day before Easter Sunday, to boil eggs, prepare paint, and to make the eggs into Marguciai –or colourful, hand-painted works of art ready to compete with one another.
The oldest and most traditional way to decorate eggs is using hot wax and a bowl of boiling onion shells. This dyes the egg bronze, but with the wax protecting certain areas from the dye, leaving beautiful patterns on the egg’s surface.
Easter Eggs are not only for decoration but also for fun as Lithuanians start their Easter morning with a traditional egg “fight”. Two players takes an egg and hold it firmly in their palms. Then one of the players hits their opponent’s egg with a tap of his, taking it in turns to try to break the other’s egg while keeping your own intact. Whichever egg has the hardest shell is the winner, and then moves on to fight with another egg and its owner.
Food plays a very important role in our Velykos celebration, and the Easter table is usually full of wonderful dishes – all served with fresh vegetables from the garden (as at least someone in the family is likely to have their own garden with tomatoes, cucumbers, and other refreshing delights).
For years Lithuanians have been fasting for a whole month before Good Friday, meaning that when Easter finally arrives, the food is all about meat. We make meat cutlets, dumplings with meat, stuffed steaks and many more dishes where meat is the dominant ingredient.
Lithuanians are also really enthusiastic fish eaters, hence the traditional Easter means of our ancestors, that are still prepared today, are often fish dishes. Lithuanian’s favourite dish – Silke, or marinated fish, will be put on the table not only on Easter, but also on Christmas, New Year, birthdays, and generally whenever there is an occasion. Silke is made with either a white fish or herring and the marinade is with tomatoes, cloves and bay.
On Easter we serve Silke with egg salad. It is a pretty simple recipe, as we only need marinated fish fillet, boiled eggs, carrots, onions, pepper and lemon juice. A real Lithuanian will know how much of all to put in – it’s something we pass on from generation to generation. Of course, you don’t have to be a Lithuanian to enjoy it as a dish.
Velykos is a festive and jolly time when all the family gathers together to bake cakes, paint eggs, play fights and most importantly- overindulge in wonderful food!
Click here for the traditional, easy Silke recipe:
As a native Greek-Cypriot, when I think of the words ‘Easter’ and ‘Cyprus’ two things spring to mind – flaounes and tsourekia. Cypriots take Easter very seriously – especially when food is concerned. This doesn’t just concern the actual Easter table, but the several weeks running-up to the day as well.
The three weeks prior to Lent or Apokria, as it is called in Greece always starts in February and is celebrated with a Carnival. Although it may not be a patch on Rio, is a great chance to dress up and welcome the festivities.
The first week of Apokria is called ‘Meat Week’ where for these seven days, folks can gorge themselves on as much meat as they like. The second week is called ‘Cheese Week’ and is a last chance to eat cheese and other dairy products before Easter. The first Monday after, is called ‘Green Monday’ and marks the official fasting period which lasts 40 days to prepare the body for Holy Communion. This is a day where families head to the countryside and fly kites and have picnics.
For weeks now, bakeries, supermarkets and delis will be festooned with long, white candles dangling like be-ribboned stalactites, the famous square Cypriot Easter pastry pockets called flaounes, and egged-topped sweet breads called tsoureki. Local village women, housewives, or just those feeling particularly ambitious bake these traditional treats at home to be eaten on Easter Day. According to tradition this is done on the Friday of the Holy Week, the last week of fasting which also sees the burial of Christ or the Epitafios. This is when people dress in dark clothing, and follow the candlelit procession of a shrouded coffin decorated in flowers which winds its way through the streets and then onto the church.
While churchgoing and Easter eggs are the norm in Britain, Cyprus sees shooting off fireworks, lighting candles and egg-cracking games on Easter Day. A culinary custom is the dying of eggs where eggs are dyed red, blue yellow and green and used to decorate the cakes and displayed in bowls and baskets throughout Easter. The red eggs represent the blood of Christ when he was crucified.
The Midnight mass on Easter Saturday/Sunday morning is the most important day of all celebrating the resurrection of Christ. Everybody goes to church with a candle and the sermon is accompanied by a firework display and a huge bonfire lit in the church yard. Commemorating the end of the 40 day fasting period, people go home in the small hours of Easter morning to eat an Easter soup called avgolemoni made of lemon, rice and lamb as well as all those baked goodies.
On Sunday Morning, people go to Mass and take Holy Communion. Easter Sunday is the main event when families and friends gather around the Easter table to enjoy what seems a never-ending buffet of cheese pies, pasta dishes, and salads. After so many meatless days, the centrepiece has to be the barbequed meats: lamb, chicken, pork and even rooster. This is not your typical barbeque mind you – souvla as it is commonly referred to, is a whole process on its own.
Carnivorous by nature, it is no surprise that huge chunks of meat or even the whole animal is imperative to the Cypriot Easter table. The meat is prepared the day before. It is washed, seasoned and tied on the spit. It is then covered with napkins and it is left all night, to drain and absorb the flavours of the seasoning, ready for early in the morning Olive tree logs are used for the fire and they are burnt until it has become charcoal. The charcoal is then put in the roaster and the lamb starts to roast.
While the adults are in the kitchen, children engage in other Easter activities. A fun Easter game is the cracking of eggs where those beautifully coloured eggs are competed against each other. The idea is to tap the eggs against each other and the one with the egg that doesn’t break is the winner. What is the prize? More coloured eggs!
Now this is one country that proves there is more to Easter than chocolate covered bunnies.
Kalo Pascha everyone!
Easter – Ostern – starts exactly 43 days after Karneval, a carnival where German people dress up in weird costumes, drink litres of beer – Koelsch – and sing traditional German folk music for five days straight – celebrating Easter with the family sounds just right.
Most families celebrate Easter by throwing large parties with decorations, traditional games and the best off all; delicious foods. Gründonnerstag is the Thursday before Easter, known as Maundy Thursday. It means ‘green Thursday’, although it is thought that the word grün is actually derived from the word greinen meaning ‘to weep’. Despite there being nothing traditionally green about ‘green Thursday’, Germans often eat green-colored foods such as herb soups.
The Friday before Easter is known as Karfreitag (Good Friday in English), or ‘Sorrowful Friday’ and traditionally people eat fish for dinner with their family.
The main day of German Easter celebrations is Easter Sunday. For Christians it is a time for the whole family to get together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the end of the Lent with a festive meal.
On Easter Sunday, families start off with a festive, leisurely brunch-type meal, with more time to relax. Families with little children color eggs and bake lamb-shaped cakes. Sweets and the colored eggs are than hidden (by the Osterhase: Easter bunny) around the house and garden for the children to go on an exciting egg hunt.
To give a warm welcome to the spring season, there is a tradition of burning the old Christmas trees in a specially-chosen venue.
A traditional Easter meal consists of lamb, which represents innocence and humility, accompanied by fresh vegetables and potatoes. Festive cakes are, of course, also a staple ingredient for an Easter Sunday afternoon – Kaffee und Kuchen.
Traditional German meals include Kerbelsuppe (Chervil Soup), Fischfrikadellen mit Greuner Sauce (Fish Cakes with Green Sauce), Osterhasenbrioches (Easter Bunny Brioches), Eier in Gruener Sauce (Eggs in Green Sauce), Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake) and of course Bunte Fruehstueckseier (Colourful Breakfast Eggs).