Laura's Blog

Greek Fire 21. Palm Sunday, sacred trees, and more vegan recipes

Sunday, April 25, 2021 

Palm Sunday
Slowly but surely in Greece, spring is on the way. The days are lengthening, though it's still been chilly. Countless flowers carpet the fields all around, including poppies, the flower of Easter, and abundant wild chamomile, malva, mullein and many other herbs we pick to dry for tea.

Three days ago the first swallows returned, so we removed our martenitsas (twisted red and white threads worn on the wrist since the first of March) and tied them to a favourite thousand-year-old olive tree down by the beach. Then came the best blessing of all, two nights and a day of soft gentle rain, giving life to the land after a very dry winter.

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Greek Fire 20. The Akathistos Hymn and the Panayía Blachernítissa

Thursday, April 15, 2021 

In recent weeks I have been writing about the Akathistos Hymn, also known as the 'Rejoicings' or Salutations to the Mother of God. This is one of the most beloved and moving hymns in the Orthodox world, and is sung in Greece on the first five Fridays of Orthodox Lent. [1] They sing one of its four parts on each of the first Fridays, and on the fifth Friday, which is tomorrow, the entire Akathistos Hymn is sung.

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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 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 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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