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Savvato tou Lazarou–Saturday of Lazarus

My fondest and most vibrant childhood memories are almost always centered around my family’s Easter preparations and celebrations. So many emotions come flooding back with a mere glimpse of all the women in the family gathered around the kitchen table making koulourakia on Holy Monday; with all the children coloring eggs in vibrant primary colors as used in Greece early on Holy Thursday; with the entire family getting ready to walk over to our church on Good Friday to follow the procession of the “Epitaphio”; with the men carrying in the baby lamb on Great and Holy Saturday; with the aroma–oh that aroma!–of the lamb roasting away in the oven from late afternoon on Great Saturday through to Easter Sunday; and with the entire family standing outside the church courtyard Saturday night until midnight, the flame from the church altar making its way down to all the faithful gripping their lambades/candles and singing the Easter hymn, “Christos Anesti.”

These are among my most sacred memories and just a few of the highlights of our preparations for Pascha … I hope to describe more of our traditions and customs throughout the coming week. For today, however, I would like to share the tradition of Lazarakia, Lenten breads flavored with cinnamon and cloves.

On the Saturday before Holy Week, the Orthodox Church observes a feast commemorating the miracle performed by Christ in raising Lazarus from the dead. As such, families partake in a tradition of kneading and baking Lenten breads shaped into small men symbolizing Lazarus. I can still clearly recall sitting as a young girl near my Giagia as she kneaded and punched the cinnamon-scented dough and then rolled it out into little Lazarakia. She would slice the dough in the middle towards the bottom to create two legs; then slice on either side of the torso to create two arms which she’d wrap towards the front and secure with a clove; lastly she’d roll out a ball to form the head, roll out a thin rope to wrap around the head as a headdress and place two cloves as Lazarus’ eyes. She’d then cover the baking sheets with clean blankets and let the breads rise before baking.

I made our Lazarakia this morning with my daughter and son beside me–my daughter rolling out her own dough and my son handing me the cloves as needed. Memories of my Giagia filled my head and I’m sure she was looking down on us with a smile just then.

Hronia Polla kai Kali Anastasi!

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10 Responses to “Savvato tou Lazarou–Saturday of Lazarus”

  1. Peter G says:

    It’s funny you know. No matter where the Greeks have migrated too, all the Easter traditions have been kept alive. Having read your account of Easter preparations…it reads exactly like mine. Look forward to seeing your “Megali Evdomada” posts Maria. The Lazarakia look cute!

  2. Ivy says:

    Chronia polla Maria kai Kali Megali Vdomada. Keeping our traditions is essential and that is what make us distinguish. I am sure your children will also have the same fond memories you had with yiayia.

  3. Mediterranean kiwi says:

    you lazarakia are beautiful
    kali megali evdomada

  4. Melanie says:

    The Lazarakia are so cute!

  5. Peter M says:

    Ahahaha, these are so cute…and you could make a killing with these. I’ll order a box next year!

  6. janetching says:

    Must be a lovely moment to make them with your daughter : ) They look very sweet! Very nice to keep the tradition. (I keep my old url so I can add comments here.)

  7. TreloKouneli Rules says:

    καλη ανάσταση και καλό πάσχα σε όλους…

  8. giz says:

    Thank you for sharing such wonderful cultural traditions. I see that primary colours are used. Is there a reason for this?

  9. Maria Dounias says:

    hey maria,

    Its great knowing that not only our greek traditions are being kept alive but also our family traditions are. We learned everything we know from our moms and giagia Evdokia and giagia Niki. The memories will never leave us of all having dinner together on easter :) Now its our turn to keep them alive and make our giagia proud looking down, For now you teach your kids and the rest of us when we have our own. And no matter where we are we have to keep our greek traditions alive :) Your lazarakia look great!!!!

  10. Susan Steinhaus says:

    I want to make these next year for Lazarus Saturday but where is the recipe? I must not see something.

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