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A Church Easter Egg Tradition

Parishioners at the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church prepare for today's holiday.

Gray cartons of hard-boiled eggs sat on a handful of tables Friday morning in a large, bright room in a building on Montvale Avenue as a group of women prepared them to be handed out early Sunday morning—around 2 a.m.

Something sets those 300 eggs apart from many that you’ll see elsewhere. They’re all red. Ruby and scarlet and blood red.

The women wrapped each egg in white netting tied with a bow and packed them into three large baskets.

This is one way some parishioners of the prepare for Easter.

Red eggs are part of that tradition.

Red is a “ joyful and celebratory” color in Asian cultures, commented Aris Hatch, daughter of church Protopresbyter Rev. Dr. Peter Rizos.

Easter is a “spiritual New Year,” according to Hatch, a time of renewal and awareness and rebirth.

An egg represents the tomb of Christ, according to parishioner Mary Stamatis, who was helping prepare eggs that parishioners had dyed at home for Easter distribution. Cracking the egg shell symbolizes a crack in the tomb, she said, and Christ’s resurrection.

It’s not just a custom, according to Fr. Rizos.

“It’s life bursting out of the tomb,” he said.

After the church’s divine liturgy for Easter that starts on Saturday night at midnight, each person who attends the service will receive an egg.

When the eggs are distributed, it’s an orthodox custom, Fr. Rizos said, that the shells are not just cracked and peeled away.

Instead, one person offers an Easter greeting, ”Christ has risen,” in Greek— “Christos anesti.”

Another person responds, “Truly He has risen.”

They click eggs. 

Whoever holds an intact egg repeats the Easter greeting and egg-clicking.

Before the celebration of Easter, on Friday evening, men of the parish carry the epitaphio, the bier of Christ, decorated with fresh, sweet-scented purple and white flowers, in a procession to the four corners of the church, Hatch said. Parishioners Karen Stavropoulos and Lucille Kiklas attached flowers to the bier Friday midday.

At the church’s front door, everyone ducks under the epitaphio “for good luck,” Hatch said.

As parishioners prepared the eggs and epitaphio Friday, Fr. Rizos and John Klesaris, parish council president, and about half a dozen other adults, stationed in different areas of the church and chapel, talked with groups of children, from kindergarten through high school, about the meaning of Good Friday and Easter.

Klesaris said he has been participating in the Good Friday retreat for a number of years.

“I want to do what I can to help them grow in faith,” he said.

During the Saturday night-into-Easter Sunday service, the priest officiating at the service comes into a pitch-black church carrying one lighted candle. He shares the light, one by one, with attendees. They bring the light home, figuratively and literally.

On Easter Sunday morning, after service, young parishioners participate in a hunt for Easter goodies in the church. 

Jim April 25, 2011 at 04:52 PM
Although the walking under the epitaphios may be considered "good luck," its traditional purpose is to remind us Orthodox Christians that we must share in Christ's death to share in His Resurrection. Death to self, death to the "old man," and rebirth. St John of Damascus wrote in the Paschal Canon "Yesterday I was buried with Thee, O Christ, and today I arise with Thine arising...". Also St. Paul writes "If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." (Romans 8:17) While I would not specifically style it good luck, being in church to experience going under the epitaphios is certainly brings a variety of benefits. Christos Anesti - Christ is Risen.

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