It’s Easter, and I am sitting at my mum’s place while my nephew and niece sleep and the rest of my family attends the midnight service. It is my favourite church service of the year. The church yard is filled with hundreds of people chatting – Greeks can be irreverent – until the priest comes out of the church spreading the Holy Light and everyone starts singing Χριστός Ανέστη (Christ has Risen). It is a sea of flickering lights as everyone has a lit candle and the Resurrection hymn is beautifully sung by hundreds of people in unison. Though I’m not at church, my mum’s home being only 100 metres away means that I can hear faint voices carrying up the hill. Easter is filled with rituals for my family and surprisingly, this year we will be forgoing one of our most steadfast traditions. We are not having a midnight feast. This is great for our digestive systems but sad that there is no offal soup to be had.
(Note: I can hear the bells ringing. It is midnight).
As much as we are doing away with the midnight feast we have slaughtered our annual lamb which will be cooked on a spit and we will be having egg wars, albeit with difficulty. Earlier, I discovered my mum’s painted eggs have been cracked already.
My mum had left the eggs on her dining room table and her younger grandchildren got excited and started cracking them. It is funny but it reminded me of a terribly sad story that my dad would tell me:
My dad was not a fan of hard boiled eggs. At Easter time, our whole family would be laughing and cracking our dyed red eggs to see which one of us would have the uncracked egg and be the ultimate egg victor, Dad would tell us the story of his first cousin whilst keeping a cautious eye on those of us who were ravenous.
His family had come home after the Easter Sunday mass with the Holy light in hand, ready to partake in a feast after the long midnight service. Candles lighting the short walk from the village church doors to their home. The cold spring air sounded with cheers, phosphorus lightly tingeing the air. All the children laughing and joking – similar to our laughing and joking – walking behind their parents, the elder of whom stood at the threshold of the house, his candle held up high scorching a cross into the door beam in hope that it will bring the household fertility and plentiful fruit. From the road they could still hear the chanting of “Christ has Risen” as they slowly filed through the home into the kitchen to find my dad’s cousin dead on the kitchen floor, mouth agape, with a glimpse of a boiled egg pressed behind her blue lips.
According to my dad, she had run home before her family. She was hungry after forty days of lenten meals, fasting from all animal products for the cleansing of her body and soul. She was hungry and happy as she skipped past the chanters and their candles sure that she would not be discovered. Her mother had prepared, in her opinion, hundreds of eggs. If she had but one before the others came home no-one would know. And quickly she peeled the red dyed shell and as she grasped the egg in her fingers she heard her family at the door. She heard their voices so she quickly put the egg in her mouth, swallowing to hide her trangression but the egg was too large. She gagged, she gulped and the air stopped. She fell to the floor, looking toward the door, terrified to be found though terrified to not be found. Sadly, her hazy sucking choking terror found her first.
The family had been ready to have a joyful midnight feast in the Lord’s name for He had risen but He had taken their daughter with Him.
Even though my dad died many years ago, I find myself keeping a wary eye on his grandchildren as they run about cracking eggs every year. My own son, named after my dad, is the most gluttonous of all the kids when it comes to eggs so I gently caution him by telling my dad’s cousin’s story.
This has been an indulgent post. It has no mention of books, romance or libraries but it does have a story that is always in the peripherals of my Easter thoughts.
2 thoughts on “Easter thoughts”
Alithos Anesti, V! Many miles away, strangers in a stranger land, as our Greek immigrant families originally were, Mama Bates and Miss await the midnight service. We have fought the good fight and now we and you and all are invited to the feast. Like your dad, MissB does NOT eat eggs; but tomorrow, like you, chez the BFF and her four sons and 40 church members, we will roast and eat the Paschal lamb and crack a few eggs. And then there will be twirly Greek dancing … so, Chronia Polla to you and yours! (And may your family member’s memory be eternal because there is always sorrow amidst even the greatest joy. A great cautionary tale, BTW, a là Roald Dahl.)
Thank you Miss B! I hope you had a wonderful day with lots of food and twirly dancing. We had no dancing but Mrs V did have her trusty Greek station playing on her Old Skool transistor. There were tsamika, rebetika and even our mountain favourites, garagounika.
It is indeed a cautionary tale. Dr Laura Vivanco, over on Twitter, likened it to “medieval religious exemplum stories” which makes me think that Dad probably did this deliberately (he spent two years studying Theology at Athens University). I have a feeling my own children will be passing this one on.