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Sarakosti: Greek Lenten Traditions

In the lives of Eastern Greek Orthodox Christians, Sarakosti, or Great Lent, is one of the most beautiful times of the year filled with deep symbolism, meaning, and traditions dating back centuries. Sarakosti is a 40 day period leading up to Easter (Pascha), in reverence to the 40 days which Jesus fasted in the desert. Kathari Deutera is always celebrated on the first day of the 7th week before Orthodox Easter Sunday. During lent, we fast and prepare our hearts and souls for the day in which Christ is resurrected.

My dream has always been to be in Greece for both Pascha, and lent, to do fun things like fly kites, eat halva, and then feast on Easter day with the entire family. As Karnivali season comes to an end and we enter into Sarakosti, colorful kites are flown by families and children in parks and seaside areas as celebration of the start to spring season, as well as a symbol of the release of wrong doings and troubles.

Traditional dishes are prepared without meat, eggs, or dairy products, and are centered around seafood plates. Taverns in Greece are full, as it is observed as a national holiday, and people will open their homes to neighbors, friends, and family to enjoy a meal together. Traditional meals include plates like Taramosalata made from fish roe, lemon, potatoes, and oil, (my theia makes the best Taramosalata in the world--no arguments please), along with sesame seed Lagana flatbread. Olives, octopus, and gigantes (lima beans) are also staples. Desert includes Halva, a sweet cake made with Tahini, pistachios, and other fruits/nuts (there are many variations) and is often served with a small glass of Greek alcohol known as Tsipouro.

Kathari Deutera is both an ending and a beginning; it marks the end of winter, the start of spring, and the beginning of our journey towards Pascha.

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