Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fiddling on a Greek Roof

(Written on 4/25/2011 from Paros, Greece)

“The wind rushed over the tall wispy grass as he gently swept her hair away from her face.  They were enveloped in joy as they stared over the glistening water and the sun dipped beyond the mountains in the distance.  The birds sang as they dined on a big fat, garlicky, oniony, roasted lamb which had been painstakingly skewered and turned on a spit for 5 hours alongside its insides…and accompanied by potatoes slathered in juicy, rich, buttery sauce.” 
That’s what I imagine a love novel set in Greece around Easter time would sound like…harmonious and peaceful and then overwhelmingly, spectacularly gluttonous.

Sunset in Santorini
Alex and I met up in Santorini to spend a few days gasping at the beauty of the island, picking our way through little bakeries and shops and restaurants, and hiding from the cold and rain in our hotel room while sipping local wine and (admittedly) watching Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.  When we embarrassingly asked the guy at the DVD store if we could rent the movie, he retorted that the DVD was scratched because so many people rented it.   I assume by “so many people” he was referring to college girls studying abroad.  And me.

Fried zucchini and fried tomato balls with tzatziki
Swinging by the port in Oia for lunch

A few days before Easter we hopped on a crowded ferry to the island of Paros where Alex’s friend Eleni and her family have a house.  Before arriving I was forewarned that this was a real Greek family…and that shouting was their way of speaking.  Perfect.
I think loud and boisterous is a general stereotype of Greeks… and since that’s reminiscent of my own family I think I could blend in.  Besides, my obnoxious yelling over the TV or stomping like an elephant (as my brothers call it when I walk...anywhere) might not be as noticeable here. 

I may be as loud as a Greek but I don't drink cofee like them...too fast
On Good Friday we headed to the church with the rest of the small town.  And after the service at midnight they carried a decorated bier symbolic of Jesus’ death in a procession through the town as we all followed with candles.  I walked amongst the locals counting my own blessings for an incredible experience…being part of a local tradition that is still upheld in modern Greece as families all return to the islands where they are from.  And kids, parents, aunts & uncles, and grandparents reunite to spend the holiday together.

The decorated bier being carried out of the church
Saturday evening we went back to the church to light candles and at midnight we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The intention is for everybody to bring the holy flame back to their houses and bless the doorway.  Candles are given to the children (and I got one too!) as gifts that are lit on this holy night.  Unfortunately the wind was gusting and as soon as people brought the flame out from the church it would blow out.  We were one of the few families who managed to cover it and get it all the way back to the house…and then we opened the car door…and it went out.
Eleni, Alex and me on the way to church with our candles

Although we didn’t have the flame we still celebrated with a traditional Greek dinner at about 1 AM…a bit different than my typical eating hours in the U.S.  We had miyiritsa soup…boiled from the insides of the lamb.  It wasn’t my fave but with lemon and spices it wasn’t horrible either.  Not a traumatic experience like the stomach in South Africa. 

We also took turns bumping the dyed eggs to see whose would break.  It felt like a March Madness tournament as we challenged each other until ultimately there was a “winner” who was crowned with the title of “the lucky one” - who will receive blessings and good fortune.  I had a run going for a while and made it to the Final Four until Eleni’s brother cracked my egg and shattered my dreams of this year’s championship.

Alex, Eleni's mom, Eleni's brother, and his girlfriend Olga
A little game of what we like to call "spot the carcass"

THERE it is!!!
Eleni is still at the ripe age of 21 and she made me feel like I’ve aged 50 years in the last 5.  She returned from her restaurant job at 3 AM and tried to coax Alex and me into hitting the few bars in town (which I’m pretty sure is half of the revenue for the island…locals like to party.)  Alex and I were quite content lying around the house in our sweats.  Since when did I become the “Sorry, I’m too tired” girl?! 
Eventually the “old ones” caved and the 3 of us girls trotted into town.  At the local bars 20-somethings and 30-somethings who returned for Easter with their families gathered.  Greek music blared through the speakers and Eleni was in her element as she danced and sang and saluted familiar faces.
The next morning I awoke to the whole lamb being roasted on the spit outside.  Over lots of wine and coffee the Easter feast was prepared.  I even ventured to have lungs, cheek, liver, and brain.  The brain was actually “very stomachable” as I would rate on my scale of cooked animal insides.  But I steered clear of the stomach…

Eleni's mom prepping the spit

Hours of roasting...
Eleni's beautiful house

Poor little guy...his tongue is even sticking out

Brain...not so bad
Amid all the eating, Eleni pulled out the gorgeous new pair of salmon colored wedges that her mom got her…and I almost fainted.  You know how most people get clammy hands and excited when they see a cute guy/girl or have to make a public speech?  That happens to me with food (obviously)…and shoes (my other love).  And Eleni’s new shoes made me swoon.  Then I compared them to my blech, gross, worn them for too many days in a row “safari shoes” and deep envy set in.  Okay…so I’m still a bit materialistic.  
Feeling like Cinderella...they even fit!
To mend my broken heart I did the only thing that made sense…drowned it in food.  Alex and I made deviled eggs to share a bit of our U.S. Easter traditions with the Greeks.  And I’m fairly certain between the two of us we ate the majority of them…there’s nothing like a good deviled egg.

Easter in Greece with a beautiful and sweet family was one of the most memorable experiences of my trip.  It makes me think of all the important holidays that I have with my family and the traditions that bond us together year after year.  I’m known in my family for being the stubborn one who refuses to abandon tradition.  I don’t care that my brothers and I are all grown…I still demand that every Christmas Eve we write Santa letters and leave them out by the stockings with cookies, carrots and milk.  Yes, I’m a loser…but it’s important to me to carry on my family’s traditions.  (I can hear my mom’s voice emulating Tevye, “Tradition!”) 
Wikipedia says that, “the English word "tradition" comes from the Latin traditio, the noun from the verb traderere or tradere (to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping); it was originally used in Roman law to refer to the concept of legal transfers and inheritance.” 
My question for you today is…what traditions do you cherish?  What are the memories that endure when you protect your traditions?  How can you meaningfully share the traditions that were handed down to you?


  1. This is super Amazing Annie! Awesomeness!!! Well next time you need companions me and Jayden are just a call is our specialty :)

  2. Haha....I'll keep that in mind! How is the little man?! Good to hear from you!


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