In the Greek Easter tradition, the first meal of the day is eaten after the midnight church service of the Resurrection to break the 40-day Lenten fast that has led up to this most joyous of celebrations. After a too-brief night's sleep, the day begins in earnest.
On the Greek island of Crete, kalitsounia (sweet cheese pastries) are an Easter tradition.
Other dishes can vary widely. The Easter meal itself can range from a small family event to an elaborate feast that goes on all day and into the night.
How Much to Make
Lamb and Kid
- For casserole recipes, increase quantities per recipe instructions.
- For oven and grilled roasts, which lose a lot of volume during cooking, figure a raw weight of 1 1/2 to 2 pounds bone-in lamb per person and a raw weight of 1 pound per person for boneless lamb.
- For spit-roasted lamb or kid, 2 pounds per person will suffice.
2 to 3 per person
One (2-pound) loaf per 4 persons
Planning the Menu
Make large quantities of basic dishes. People arrive early—the men to discuss and analyze the roasting of the lambs and the women to chat and watch over their children and grandchildren. The cooking and eating go on for hours, so many dishes are served in small quantities and constantly replenished from the kitchen as the day goes on.
Appetizers & Mezethes (What to Eat While Watching the Lamb Cook)
- Tyropitakia: Small cheese pie triangles
- Greek Olives: A must
- Sliced myzithra: A favorite cheese
- Tyrokafteri: A spicy feta cheese dip
- Tzatziki: Yogurt, garlic, and cucumber dip
- Dolmathakia yialantzi: Rice-stuffed grape leaves
- Fresh Vegetables: Sliced tomato salad, cucumbers, fresh raw broad beans
- Crusty bread and pita wedges for dipping
- Raki (tsikoudia): A favorite Cretan drink
Main Meal—A 3- to 4-hour event
Dishes for the main meal are simply added to the table with the appetizers and mezethes. Red eggs are always on the table and games of tsougrisma go on all day.
- Avgolemono soup: Egg-lemon chicken soup (optional first course)
- Arni sti souvla: Spit-roasted whole lamb
- Kotopoulo lemonato sti skhara: Grilled lemon chicken
- Patates fournou: Roasted potatoes with lemon, orange, and oregano
- Spanakotyropita: Spinach pie with cheese
- Maroulosalata: Crisp cos (Romaine) lettuce with dill and spring onions
- Crusty country bread
- Beverages: Beer, wine, water
- Tsoureki (aka lambropsomo): Easter bread (this sweet bread is eaten as a dessert, often with thick Greek yogurt)
- Kalitsounia kritis: Cretan sweet cheese pastries
- Galaktoboureko: Custard-filled phyllo pastry
- Koulourakia: Butter cookies
- Seasonal fruit: Apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, tangerines
- Spoon sweets: Serve a spoonful of these syrupy sweets with raki, coffee, or water, or as a topping on thick Greek yogurt or ice cream.
- Strong Greek coffee: Made to order
- More raki
What Isn't Traditionally Served at Easter
Kourabiethes, delightful sugared almond cookies, are a tradition at festive occasions, including Christmas, weddings, and baptisms, but they are not part of the Easter tradition.
For vegetarians and vegans, there are many options from which to choose.