Laura's Blog

Greek Fire 19. Vegan Feasts of Lent

Friday, April 9, 2021 
As I mentioned last week in Greek Fire 18, Greek Easter will come on May 2nd this year, so although Western Easter has come and gone, here we are all still deep in Lent. [1] It's a time of fasting – but also of feasting: especially for vegans, Greek Lent is absolute heaven.

When I first started visiting Greece about thirty years ago, vegan food was sometimes quite difficult to find. With war and famine still in living memory, the laden table took on a sacred significance, with meat or fish almost always at the centre. Whether I was invited to someone's home or invited out for a meal (for which the guest was never permitted to pay), the age-old custom of hospitality to a foreign visitor meant that abundant meat must be provided for national honour to be satisfied. It made no difference to protest that I was a lifelong vegetarian.

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Greek Fire 18. The Akathistos Hymn: Mary and Inanna

Thursday, April 1, 2021 
Last week, in Greek Fire 17, we made a virtual visit to one of my favourite churches in Athens, the Church of St Isidoroi on Lykavettos Hill, built into a cave, with its miraculous icon [left], the Virgin of the Rock. I am enjoying 'attending' their live-streamed liturgies during Orthodox Lent, which in the Eastern Church has just begun; today is Maundy Thursday in the West, but Greek Easter is not until May 2nd this year. [1]

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Greek Fire 16. Kathará Deftéra and the Kalóyeros of Ayia Eleni

Thursday, March 18, 2021 
Earlier this week in Greece we marked Kathará Deftéra, 'Clean Monday', the official end of Apókries (Carnival) and the beginning of Lent. I say that we marked it – I can't say that we celebrated it. Normally this is one of the most important holidays in the Greek year, but we are still under strict lockdown here – even stricter than before, actually, because now we are only allowed to exercise within walking distance of our homes, where previously we were allowed to drive up to 2km – so there were no gatherings, no gléndia, no family feasts.

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Greek Fire 17. Evangelismos and the Virgin of the Rock

Friday, March 26, 2021 
In Greece, March 25 is a very important day: The Evangelismos ('Good News') or Annunciation. One of the twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox Year, it's a day of joy and hope for Greek Christians, with beautiful liturgies in honour of the Divine Mother. March 25 is one of only two days during Lent (the other being Palm Sunday) when feasting is permitted – indeed encouraged – for the faithful, and the whole country eats fish on this day: fresh near the coast, salt cod inland.

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Greek Fire 15. Tsiknopempti, the start of Greek Carnival

Thursday, March 4, 2021 
Today is Tsiknopémpti! In an ordinary year, large groups of family and friends would be gathering around a groaning table, with laughter, ribald jokes, music and dance to kick off the season of Apókries – Greek Carnival. This year, of course, because of the pandemic, we are not permitted to meet in groups or to travel outside our own local town, so there won't be any of the usual celebrations. Once again, we must savour our memories and kindle our imaginations – and our hope that next year we will be together again.

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