Until the Easter celebrations begin in earnest at the beginning of Holy Week, it is easy to forget that this is bigger, more important, than Christmas in the Christian Orthodox calendar. With a well-publicised programme of events covering the entire period from "Big Monday" right through till the quieter days after Easter Sunday, the atmosphere starts to build up. Many people give up meat, dairy and even fish during Holy Week so that the triumphal pascal lamb is much appreciated when it is served up on Easter Sunday. From whole lambs on the spit, to smaller cuts in the oven, eaten at home or in a taverna or restaurant, this is a major celebratory feast. Many families follow the old custom of taking their uncooked joint to the local bakery, whose huge ovens are given over to the cooking of tray upon tray of lamb roasts. Each tin must, of necessity, be marked with the family initials lest - heaven forfend - the wrong dish is returned to the wrong family. Sadly this tradition - from the days when individual families did not own their own oven - is dying out, and I can't actually think of anywhere in Corfu where we could have taken our own tray of lamb. My niece, holidaying in a village near Patras, did just this, however.
I still find it amazing and moving to find so many churches - one after another - so full of people of all ages remembering the religious reason behind the more secular traditions of pot-smashing, fireworks and souvenir shopping.