This weekend, we are going to be celebrating Greek Easter, which is the most culturally significant holiday for our community. (And yes, it typically falls one week after Catholic Easter, super confusing, I know). As my family and I prepare for this holiday, I wanted to share some reflections about our traditions and how they relate to wellness.
Fasting: Many Greeks practice fasting from meat, dairy and oil during the 40 days before Easter. So when Lent came around, I got to thinking about how fasting and intermittent fasting have been some of the top wellness trends of the past few years. But the practice of fasting for religious purposes has been around for thousands of years, long before science could prove that it had major health benefits – and not just in our religion but in every major faith around the world. So even if we don’t have religious reasons for fasting, it night be a good idea to figure out how to fit it into our lives regularly in whatever way works for you. One of my favorite books on the topic, which I’ve written about several times here, is The Longevity Dietby Dr. Valter Longo. In short, Longo explains that fasting helps to clear the unhealthy cells out of our body (via a process known as autophagy), and in turn, reduce inflammation and disease.
Sharing the light: In the Greek tradition, on the Saturday night before Easter, we gather together at Church at midnight to celebrate the rebirth of Jesus. This experience might be one of my favorite aspects of Easter celebrations - it's truly magical and often brings tears to my eyes. Our entire community gathers in the Church, and the lights go dark. Then, one lit candle is carried out of the altar - and one by one, parishioners pass the light of their candle to the people standing closest to them. Within a minute, the church is extremely bright and filled with light. And the priest leads the parish in chanting a beautiful hymn of celebration.
As I reflected on the significance of this tradition, it couldn't have been more representative of our world right now. It reminds me that we can find light in the darkness – and that when we find it, we just have to pass it on to at least one more person to do our part in making the world a little bit brighter.
Food: When Easter Sunday comes, we break fast and in a big way. You've probably seen pictures of Greeks roasting lamb on a spit, cracking dyed red eggs, and eating lots and lots of food. Food made with love and gathering around the table (even virtually) are key to health and wellness!
Even though this is the first Easter in history when Greek churches have been closed (they've stayed open as a refuge for many, even during wartime) - we can use this time to celebrate what's important. From my family to yours, I hope that you can bring a little bit of joy of Greek Easter to your weekend at home in quarantine. Xristos Anesti!
Olive Oil Sommelier, Katerina Mountanos, is the Founder & CEO of Kosterina. Katerina is very passionate about olive oil, the Mediterranean lifestyle and eating for health and longevity.
Some of my favorite moments in life are the times after a meal where conversations continue and a second drink is served. I often feel a ping of disappointment in that moment where someone gets up and starts to pick up the dishes. I try not to be that person.