Warmth, compassion and faith define Greek Easter around the world as it is the time of year when families gather, meals are served and churches are filled, celebrating the miracle of the Resurrection. Considered the most important religious holiday of the year, its customs and traditions have been part of Christianity for two thousand years.
One of the greatest ties between the Greeks and their culture is religion. During this sacred time, churches across Greece flood with people willing to experience the services that embody their Christian practice. There is also a large population of Greeks living abroad who have enriched the international community not only in the field of culture, but also in medicine, technology, arts and academia.
According to estimates by the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad carried out in 2021, there are more than 5,000,000 people of Greek descent living outside Greek borders, scattered in 140 countries around the world.
The countries that are home to the most people of Greek descent outside of Greece are the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Albania, with several other European countries included. from the list.
Eleana Pamballi, a Greek Cypriot who moved to Liverpool, England at the age of 17 after spending most of her childhood in Cyprus, spoke to TNH about her experience.
“Easter celebrations with my family have always been central to my upbringing, so attending an Orthodox Church in Liverpool made us feel connected to our roots and our religion,” she said, adding: “As people at home took to the streets of Larnaca with their holy light, we would do the same.
This year, Pamballi found herself visiting Canada over the Easter period. The Ancient Calendar Greek Orthodox Church Annunciation of the Blessed Mother and Saint Nektarios in Montreal was where she celebrated Holy Week.
“Spending Greek Orthodox Easter in Canada, a country so far away and so different from home, seemed surreal. The struggle and discomfort of having to find a church just to be able to feel a little closer to Greek Cypriot traditions at this time of year was part of my mini adventure here in Montreal. Once I arrived at the church and the service started, any feeling of unease went from within as I felt a little piece of my homeland enter my heart at that moment,” said Eleana Pamballi at TNH.
In another part of the world, Austria, one finds a smaller population of Greeks, the number varying between 5,000 and 18,000 people. In Vienna, one of the most visited churches is the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity.
Alex Sobko, an international student from Ukraine spent his high school years in Cyprus and is currently pursuing his higher education in Vienna.
“After living in Cyprus for more than a decade, I not only learned about Greek and Cypriot values and its language, but connected with its culture,” Alex Sobko told TNH.
“As a Ukrainian, my family is devoted to religion. We are Orthodox Christians; therefore, Easter and Christmas have always been important to gather and celebrate. The church symbolizes the idea of unity and warmth, so even though I’m away from home, it’s a way for me to stay connected,” he added.
Although he is not Greek himself, Sobko’s Ukrainian roots led him to the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Vienna at Easter.
“Personally, I had a pleasant experience immersing myself in the Greek world without having to fly to another country. It was like teleporting to another universe that seemed so close. I found it particularly interesting that entering church is like entering a cultural bubble, where access to other cultures is not restricted, but you have your own rules and customs that govern the place,” he told TNH.
Religion and culture have the power to spiritually transport people closer to home, wherever they are in the world. Regardless of location, traditions and customs are what will sustain these communities.