On a campus where most people learned all they know about Greek culture from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the Wesleyan Hellenic Society is trying to transfer the traditions of the Greek family to life. To that end, WesGreeks (as the Hellenic Society is commonly known) invited the student body to join them in celebrating Greek Easter, the Greek Orthodox equivalent of traditional Easter, a festival celebrating the end of Lent, family, and food –— lots and lots of food — which will be on April 4 this year.
“For us, it’s the biggest holiday of the year,” said Georgios Malliaros ’12. “We don’t typically celebrate Christmas as much. And we love it because it’s not just a Christian celebration, but that it’s really an inherent part of Greek culture and family.”
Although Greek Easter fell on the same date as Catholic and Protestant Easter this year, the two usually fall on separate dates. Given the smaller community of Greek students on campus and the difficulty of returning home on what professors often see as an insignificant weekend, WesGreeks brought the traditional festivities to campus for the first time. Before the formation of the Hellenic Society, individual WesGreek smembers had made attempts at holding their own variations of the holiday, before hosting one unified event for the entire school.
“Last year, it fell during WesFest, so Eliana [Theodorou ‘12] and I had a Greek Easter in Fauver,” said Lexi Maloutta ’12, with a laugh, “We were the only two Greek kids in the dorm.”
While the traditional Greek Easter begins on the same day as Lent, when religious observers will fast or give up meat for 40 days, WesGreeks eschewed the particularly religious aspects of the holiday in favor of a celebration of family, food, and all things Greek. Typically, the festivities last an entire week, beginning with the observance of Holy Thursday and the High Holidays before a Sunday celebration. Members concede that, much like the infamous film, food is a— if not the—focal point.
“We’ll roast a lamb on a spit, we couldn’t do it this year, because we lacked both the funding and a spit,” Theoderou said, “Also, there are red eggs. The eggs represent new life and red represents the blood of Christ. We’ll usually only make 33, for the 33 years of Christ. We needed a lot more, clearly.”
Other staples include vegetarian dishes and tsoureki—traditional Greek sweet bread.
“Its like Challah, only way better,” Malliaros said.
Held in the backyard of Earth House, WesGreeks’s party featured nearly all the traditions of the typical celebration, complete with traditional Greek music and dancing. Friends and students filed through the party all afternoon, with a steady crowd of about fifty students milling, eating, and having a good time for several warm, sunny hours. The first major event for WesGreeks, the Greek Easter celebration was a massive success, and members hope to begin a new tradition on campus.
“Because the celebration was such a success this year, we’re hoping we’ll get more funding and time for organization next year,” Theodouro said. “We’ll make it bigger and there will be a whole lamb. That’s the main goal. We’ll get Beta to donate their spit.”
With approximately 15 members, WesGreeks is looking forward to their future on campus. The group hopes to invite either University or outside professors to lecture on Greek culture and host more events, but pokes fun at the more traditional culture show programs of other campus groups, laughing over the Greek equivalent, including only coffee, cigarettes, and eating. However, Greek Easter will remain a focus for the group, just as it is for Greek culture as a whole. Just as other groups host their own shows and events, WesGreeks spreads their culture by sharing some of their greatest values of family, faith, and, of course, eating.
“I always loved Greek Easter and preferred it to the typical Christian one. It’s so much more rooted in tradition and family,” said Maloutta, “It’s so much more fun than finding chocolate eggs and bunnies.”
“And more food,” chimed in Malliaros.