‘My Greek Guide to Easter’: Stephanie Timotheou launches latest book in Ikoyenia series

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By Martina Simos.

Greek Australian Stephanie Timotheou, 33, was inspired to document traditions that are important to her to pass on to her children. She wrote her first book in the Ikoyenia series – Cooking with Yiayia – while on maternity leave. That was around five years ago.

The young author has just released her 10th book – My Greek Guide to Easter.

Before writing about Holy Week, Stephanie sought explanation from Father Michael who is from the Greek Orthodox Parish of St Dimitrios in Adelaide, South Australia.

She spoke to The Greek Herald about finding time to write in between being a mum, a wife, and having a career in communications.

What do you recall about an early Easter celebration that you remember?

Stephanie as a youngster going on an egg hunt.
Stephanie as a youngster going on an egg hunt.

There are so many wonderful Easter memories I have as a child, but my favourite would have to be dyeing and cracking eggs with my family. I’ll admit I never fully understood the meaning behind the red egg but, looking back, it was truly special to do this during Holy Week as a symbol of Christ’s rebirth and resurrection.

What part made it memorable?

Simply spending time with family! It was always tradition to do this with my mum and sister and it’s even more special that I now get to do this with my own children. For me, it’s so important to carry down these traditions from generation to generation.

Presvitera and Father Charalambos holding Stephanie and her sister Myri.
Presvitera and Father Charalambos holding Stephanie and her sister Myri.

Your grandfather was a priest. What memories do you have of him and Easter?

My late pappou – The Very Reverend Charalambos Stratos – undoubtedly made Easter what it was. His children, grandchildren and great grandchildren (more than 50 in total) would gather at his house on Easter Day and the lamb on the spit was perfection.

Stephanie's pappou (Father Charalambos) and yiayia Myrianthi (Presvitira).
Stephanie’s pappou (Father Charalambos) and yiayia Myrianthi (Presvitera).

I have fond memories of big, long tables lining the driveway, under the grapevines. He would always sit at the head, smiling so infectiously at the sheer sight of his family being together. It was pure magic and a moment that will be forever etched in my memory.

Did you think about your pappou when you were writing the book?

Absolutely! He was so true to his faith and lived and breathed the church. This book is a shining example of what he would have been teaching my children if he were still here.

How do you think he would react?

I would like to think he’s proud of everything I’ve done – and continue to do – to keep our Greek culture and traditions alive.

How many books have you written?

It’s actually my 10th book! The latest in the series is called My Greek Guide to Easter and it explains cultural and religious traditions surrounding Greek Orthodox Easter. The book also gives children an easy-to-digest explanation of Holy Week and what happens on each day in the lead up to Pascha.

How long did it take to write?

The book was a work in progress for about eight months. To be honest, I could have done it much quicker but… mum life!

Are there real photos or illustrations in the book?

The book is beautifully illustrated by talented South Australian, Rachel Darling. She has illustrated all my books to-date and has done a tremendous job, especially considering she’s not even Greek!

What kind of research did you do?

I really wanted to ensure everything was accurate, so I reached out to Father Michael who was delighted to assist me. He explained Holy Week in the simplest way possible that would be easy to comprehend for little ones. He is such an approachable and lovely person, so I thought who better to ask?

Describe the sense of Greek pride you feel in keeping the most sacred celebration alive for the next generation.

I am truly honoured! It’s so important to keep these traditions going to ensure our children never lose their identity.

How will you involve your children this year with Orthodox Easter?

Anthea and Stephanie 5
Stephanie (right) and her daughter, Anthea.

I’m excited to be making koulourakia and dyeing eggs with my two children, aged five and two. This year I’d also love to take my daughter to church so she can help dress the epitaphio with floral arrangements.

Your mum is from a large family. Describe how your very big Greek family manages to celebrate Easter together.

Stephanie's grandparents and their seven children.
Stephanie’s grandparents and their seven children.

Mum is one of seven children and dad is one of four. Combined there would be over 100 people in our immediate family, as some of my cousins’ children are now having children of their own. Unfortunately, this means it’s almost impossible for everyone to be at the same place, at the same time. These days our Easters are much more intimate with a low-key souvla or lamb on the spit.

Have you dedicated the book to anyone?

I haven’t! But I must say, every book I’ve written, I’ve done so with my own children in mind. It’s so important they never forget their heritage.

Lastly, you work full-time, are a wife and mother. How do you juggle?

My secret to the everyday juggle is: coffee, late nights and a very supportive husband and family. I would be lost without them!

How can the book be ordered?

The books can be ordered at www.ikoyenia.com.au

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