Come Receive the … Lamb

Unlike many of my peers, my earliest memories of Easter don’t involve egg hunts or bunnies. They involve candles, red eggs and lamb. These are things that most people would not associate with that holiday (with the possible exception of the eggs, even though they are not pastel). People of Greek ancestry, like me, however will find all of these very familiar.

Even those Greeks who do not have time for church most of the year will go for the midnight service on Easter Sunday. This service is done almost entirely by the light of the candles that almost every member of the congregation who is old enough to do so holds. Not only that, even children are not reprimanded for waving their candle around frequently during the course of the service whenever certain words like Christos Anesti (Christ is Risen) are spoken. Seeing the candlelight spread from the single flame held by the priest who says “Come Receive the Light” throughout the entire church is something that never fails to move me even today.

At the end of the service is when the red eggs make their appearance (assuming that you have not dyed a bunch of them yourself). These are not a pale red, they are startlingly crimson – almost the color of fresh blood and end up being cracked against one another in a game where people try to determine who is “lucky”. In my family, we even saved the eggs that won each year and dated them.

But, perhaps the most fun was helping my father cook the whole lamb on the spit (insert “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” joke here). He would be up at five to start the beast cooking so that it would be done before the feast began for the approximately 40 assembled family and friends at about two that afternoon. The sound of the dripping fat and the hissing of the flames would be enough to send all of the members of the household into a fervor of anticipation. The taste is like nothing else to me even now and I remember how one of our friends would take the leftover bones home for his family’s dogs. I think they probably looked forward to the day almost as much as the rest of us.

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