From midnight masses on Holy Saturday to breaking Lent with a traditional mageritsa, tender lamb on the spit and red-dyed eggs, Greek Orthodox Easter this year was more special than ever before.
A loosening of COVID-19 restrictions across Australia, saw Greek communities gather in masses at their local parishes to receive the Holy Light and chant ‘Xristos Anesti.’ From there, families returned home and enjoyed each other’s company as they ate a delicious feast and cracked red dyed eggs.
On Easter Sunday, many people visited relatives for lamb on the spit, while others attended the Vespers of Love service at night and enjoyed the company of their fellow parishioners.
This is how Greek Orthodox Easter was celebrated across Australia:
New South Wales:
Thousands gathered at Greek Orthodox churches across Sydney on Holy Saturday to attend the midnight mass celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
At the Greek Orthodox Parish of Kogarah, a midnight service presided by His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia was attended by Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and his wife Jenny, as well as a host of other dignitaries, including the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Christos Karras, Trade Commissioner of Greece in Australia, Katia Gkikiza, High Commissioner of Cyprus in Australia, Martha Mavrommatis, Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans, Geoff Lee MP and Member for Oatley, Mark Coure MP.
Across town in churches such as St Nectarios Parish in Burwood and Sts Raphael, Nicholas and Irene Parish in Liverpool, among many others, parishioners could also be heard loudly chanting ‘Xristos Anesti’ at midnight before cars, lit up from people carrying the Holy Light, were seen heading home for a traditional feast of mageritsa.
For those parishioners who couldn’t attend services, live streams were also set up from parishes such as St Spyridon in Kingsford.
On Easter Sunday morning, the celebrations continued with the Vespers of Love service held at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation of our Lady in Redfern. The service was officiated by Archbishop Makarios, accompanied by His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim, His Grace Bishop Iacovos of Militopolis, His Grace Bishop Emilianos and clergy from across NSW.
At the end of the service, parishioners, including dignitaries such as Mr Karras, Mrs Gkikiza and Ms Mavrommatis, were given red eggs by Archbishop Makarios, as is tradition.
In Victoria, Archdiocesan Vicar of the Northcote District, Father Evmenios Vasilopoulos, presided over the Resurrection Service at the Transfiguration of the Lord Parish in Thomastown.
The church itself was decorated beautifully with bright flower wreaths, while thousands of parishioners gathered outside and inside to take part in the service.
On Easter Sunday, Father Evmenios also presided over the Vespers of Love service at the Archiepiscopal Monastery Axion Esti. This service was attended by all clergy from the district of Northcote.
Elsewhere, a solemn Vespers service was held at St. Eustathios Greek Orthodox Church, South Melbourne, by Bishop Ezekiel of Dervis.
The Consul General of Greece in Melbourne, Emmanuel Kakavelakis, was in attendance and read a passage from the Gospel, before Bishop Ezekiel distributed red eggs to the congregation.
In Adelaide, Anastasi midnight services were attended by thousands of Greeks, wanting to partake in the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
At St Panteleimon Greek Orthodox Church in Adelaide, for example, there were lines out the door as people waited their turn to receive the Holy Light from the parish priest. From there, the entire congregation, both elderly and youth, stood outside and chanted together ‘Xristos Anesti.’
Elsewhere, at the Greek Orthodox Community and Parish of The Nativity of Christ in Port Adelaide, which recently underwent repairs due to the extensive damage suffered from a fire in December 2019, more Greek people also partook in the Anastasi, before returning home from the traditional feast.
Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations began in Canberra from Good Friday. The Archepiscopal Vicar of Canberra and Tasmania, Very Reverend Prochoros Anastasiadis, first presided over the Epitaphio procession at St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Canberra.
In the early morning of Holy Saturday, Father Prochoros then held a special Divine Liturgy attended by hundreds of faithful.
Everyone could be seen smiling as the priest emerged from the altar and threw palm leaves at the church pews, a traditional custom for the morning service.
Later that night, a crowd gathered again outside and inside the church for the Anastasi service. The next day, Greeks gathered at each other’s houses for lunch, while others enjoyed a small meal at restaurants such as the Hellenic Club of Canberra.
In Tasmania, the traditional Anastasi service was held at the church of St George in Hobart on Saturday night, before Father Prochoros made his way to the capital city from Canberra to preside over the Vespers of Love service on Sunday morning.
During the service, Father Prochoros spoke about the importance of allowing Christ in our lives and expressed the well wishes of Archbishop Makarios.
At the conclusion of the service, eggs were handed out to the congregation and Father Prohoros wished the President of the Greek Community of Tasmania, Mr Nicholas Theodoropoulos, a blessed feast day for St George.
After all this, some parishioners were able to enjoy a nice sit-down lunch of lamb on the spit, roasted potatoes and salads with the priest, taking in the beautiful view of a nearby lake.
In the NT, Greeks gathered at St Nikolaos Greek Orthodox Church in Darwin on Saturday morning for a Divine Liturgy, where the local priest emerged from the altar and threw flowers at parishioners as a symbol of the earthquake which is said to have been felt during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
“Today we showed the world that we can come together after a year with the bells ringing, feet stomping and more flowers in the air than ever before,” photographer, Georgia Politis, who works with the Greek Orthodox Community of Northern Australia, said after attending the morning service.
“The laughter, bright eyes and smiles I saw today made me tearful.”
Later that night, lambathes lit up the sky in the church’s courtyard as the Anastasi was celebrated. After this, everyone returned to their respective houses to enjoy the traditional feast of mageritsa or chicken soup, tsourekia, eggs and koulourakia.
It was a very different situation in Western Australia during Anastasi this year, compared to the rest of Australia.
Due to the newly imposed COVID-19 restrictions, the local Greek community which gathered at churches such as Sts Constantine and Helene in Perth, were required to wear masks during the service both outside and indoors.
Despite this, everyone continued to chant loudly and proudly, and all those who were unable to attend, could watch the Resurrection service via a live stream on Facebook and YouTube.
“The Management Committee of the Hellenic Community of WA would like to wish all our members and friends Χριστός Ανέστη, Christ has risen,” the Hellenic Community of WA Inc wrote on Facebook after the service.
*Video by the Hellenic Community of WA Inc.
In Queensland, Anastasi services took place across the state. One which took place at St George Greek Orthodox Church in Brisbane, was attended by thousands of Greek families who made the most of a service which they weren’t able to attend last year.
The entire service was also live streamed for those who were unable to attend physically.
“Father Dimitri and Father Stavros pray that Christ Resurrects in your own heart tonight during Pascha and daily thereafter, to renew your life, to fill and fulfil you, with all that is true, good, worthy of honour, and beautiful. Kali Anastasi friends,” the local parish wrote on Facebook after the event.