I’m often asked by non-Greeks what does Easter mean to you? They have seen the caricatures of Greeks in films like Zorba, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and other various works but they always ask me around this time of year – what makes Easter stand out? I think the way that I’ve attempted to answer that question is to give a small sample of Greek history to the person asking. As evidenced by the flag of Greece, with a cross and the top left-hand corner, religion clearly plays an unusually important role in both the history of Greece and in Greek society when compared to many other nations.
The Greeks since antiquity have had a sense of melancholy, that follows them wherever they go. Whether that be when times are good, when people start saying that the bad times are just around the corner, a Nostalgia of Greece from those who had to leave for better economic fortune or for fear of persecution. There is a bevy of reasons that melancholy has been a steadfast companion in the life of Greeks. Easter however is something altogether different, it’s usually grouped in with the Greek War of Independence from the Ottomans as both Easter and that revolution represented a rebirth, a resurrection. Despite improbable odds there is a Hellenic Republic today and there have just been too many serendipitous events scattered throughout the long, winding road of Greek history to be explained rationally. That’s where faith comes in. Despite all the melancholy and sometimes overt defeatism and pessimism, Greeks have a supremely unique belief that at the end of the day things will be all right. For example, when someone dies a common phrase could be translated as they have “now been relaxed by the Lord,” even in death, putting a positive, faithful spin on an otherwise devastating event for us mortals.
This year more than any other in living memory, we see the light at the end of the tunnel. With increased levels of vaccination, not just in the United States, we are beginning to see the stirrings of some semblance of normalcy, coinciding with the northern hemisphere getting its greenery back after a long, cold, pandemic-depressing winter. Therefore, we have a trinity of joy, much like our faith tells us: we have the 200 years of the start of the struggle for freedom against the Ottomans, the emergence of vegetation and warmth of spring, and at last the light at the end of the tunnel is being seen in the context of the pandemic. Easter is a holiday that brings families together and reminds us that like our Lord and Savior, from the doom and gloom we will all rise, but we can only do so together. Easter is important to me because I find an inner peace when going to services – or as more regularly these days, watching the live stream of the church services during Holy Week – a peace I have not felt in a year and a half. We’re almost there. Consider this: the Friday of our most holy weekend and Sunday is just around the corner. Patience is a virtue. Don’t lose the Faith – and put your faith in one another too.