Orthodox Christians plan Easter in isolation

Adrian Alexiou, Galina Tishcenko, Slava Novascu and Egor Novikov.
Adrian Alexiou, Galina Tishcenko, Slava Novascu and Egor Novikov. / SUR
  • Lockdown tradition. Hundreds of residents on the Costa del Sol are preparing to celebrate their most important religious festival of the year

On 19 April, Orthodox Easter will be celebrated in countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Russia and Ukraine, and by numerous Orthodox Christians on the Costa del Sol. The celebration is usually held later than Catholic Easter. This year the difference between them is one week and only this year there is one extra thing in common - celebrations will be indoors. Four Costa del Sol residents talk about the peculiarities of Orthodox Easter in their countries and how they plan to celebrate it here in lockdown.

Adrian Alexiou, Benalmádena

Fireworks from the roof

"Most Greeks belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church which has a unique way of celebrating. They blend the significance of two separate events - the suffering of Jesus Christ and the joy of his resurrection. That is why Easter in Greece includes the funerary procession of the Epitaphios - a Christian icon - as well as the festive Easter Sunday meal, accompanied by singing and dancing.

"On the Saronic Gulf islands of Spetses and Hydra where I grew up they celebrate Easter in their own way, which is not unlike the Costa del Sol's Virgen del Carmen processions and sea celebrations.

Orthodox Christians plan Easter in isolation

"The most emotional moment is on Good Friday with the Epitaphios processions. On Hydra, in the picturesque fishing village of Kaminia, at Easter there is something similar to what happens in La Carihuela, Torremolinos, in the middle of July. The seafaring Epitaphios literally enters the sea in order to bless both the waters and the boats. At midnight the sky is full of fireworks.

"Our family usually goes to Nerja where at our relatives' place we celebrate Easter Sunday in the garden full of flowers. But this time we bought potted flowers in the supermarket and our daughters replanted them on our roof terrace. They managed to create appropriate scenery of my native island. This weekend we will dance and sing anyway. When it is dark we will let off fireworks from our terrace."

Galina Tishchenko, Torremolinos

Back to the oven

"For Ukrainians, who are primarily Orthodox Christians, Easter is the most important religious holiday of the year. This holiday came to Ukraine from Byzantium together with christening at the end of the 10th century.

Orthodox Christians plan Easter in isolation

"The preparation for Easter begins weeks beforehand. It starts with Lent, but in comparison to the Catholic tradition there are no carnivals. That is why I was confused for the first time watching funny dressed people in Malaga - singing and dancing. For us, Lent is a strict 40-day fasting when we really give up meat, eggs, and butter and in addition abstain from dancing and other frivolous activities. This period before Easter is considered to be a time for soul-cleansing and penitence.

"After the Easter mass fasting ends and feasting begins. They start to eat the food from the Easter basket which is blessed at the night mass. The willow basket decorated with an embroidered cloth contains traditional sweet Easter bread and sweet Easter cheese, dyed hard-boiled eggs, butter, lard, horseradish cream, smoked ham, sausage, blood pudding, vodka or moonshine and, as a rule, fortified dessert wine.

"Isolation helped me to avoid temptations during Lent. I haven't been to any cafes eating my favourite cakes and neither to concerts. In addition, this lockdown made me bake for the first time in many years. Before I used to buy the traditional sweet Easter bread in the Ukrainian food shop in the centre of Malaga. Due to the isolation I baked it myself. My own bread seems to be much tastier."

Slava Novascu, Marbella

A bathroom instead of the sea

"Easter is the most important celebration for Romanians. It is preceded by numerous preparations and rituals. I like preparing food myself. But this time the traditional Easter lamb will be not cooked out of doors on a rack over an open fire as we cannot go to the village. So I will clean the ashes out of the fireplace and grill the lamb.

Orthodox Christians plan Easter in isolation

"In my native region of Transylvania, there is a tradition called 'the wetting'. After Easter, on Monday morning, the boys take a bucket of water and go to the houses of the unmarried girls. If they find them sleeping, the boys throw water on them. As it is believed that those girls will marry soon, they reward the boys by giving them decorated eggs and Easter cheese or Easter bread. In some places, the boys catch the girls when they go out and take them to the fountain or to the river, where they wet them.

"Actually, wetting with ice-cold water is not only a Romanian tradition. In Slovakia, for example, dousing women in water on Easter Monday is one of the most treasured traditions. What's more, when the women are wet, they can also be whipped with a whip braided from thin branches of a willow. It is nothing to do with violence. According to tradition this water procedure makes women younger, stronger and healthier for the upcoming spring season.

"I usually push my wife into the sea while we are walking on the beach. This time it will be just cold shower for her as I really want her to be healthy during this pandemic. This time all of us have already got used to 'the wetting'. To protect against viruses my family started taking ice-cold showers. It is known that in this way the body's long-term metabolism increases as well as mental strength. Both are important, specially now."

Egor Novikov, Mijas Costa

Handmade cards mean more

"I like Easter a lot. First of all, when I was younger my grandmother used to bring me a basket with chocolate eggs. However, our proper tradition is about boiled and painted eggs. At school we even learn how to decorate eggs. Though today you can buy different paints to colour the eggs, but in my family we prefer the natural way of painting.

Orthodox Christians plan Easter in isolation

"Traditionally, Easter eggs are different shades of red. So if you boil eggs with onion peel they get a brownish shade of red. To make natural patterns I put dried flowers or small leaves on the eggs and then put them in a sock for boiling. When they are ready, I take the leaves off and those spots would remain white and look like a lace. On the Costa del Sol we started using local olive oil which gives the eggs at least an Andalusian smell.

"It is a pity, but in quarantine I will not be able to meet my friends for the traditional egg-smashing competition. However, this lockdown helped me develop my creativity. This time I have not sent digital greetings for Easter but have posted handmade paper cards."