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Easter is, undoubtedly, one of the best times to visit Crete.  The Orthodox Easter does not usually coincide with the Catholic Easter, which is celebrated earlier, most of the times. The weather, in Crete, is good at Easter and offers the ideal combination of the spring and the early summer heat. The temperature ranges between 16° and 22° and it is perhaps the most suitable time for the first swim in the sea.

Many of the religious and ancestral customs still go on to the present day on Crete.  From Holy Monday to Holy Saturday, the people go to church and attend the Mass. Every day, the Mass is special and different for the Orthodox Tradition. Jesus' path to the Crucifixion and Resurrection is described through the Gospels. It is the special season for the Churches and monasteries which are adorned with flowers.

On Great Thursday, the day of Jesus' Crucifixion, the service lasts until late at night. The people who attend the Mass decorate the wooden cross, found in every church, with wreaths of lemon blossoms and other flowers. On Good Friday the women of every village or parish decorate the Epitaph, the wooden effigy of Jesus' tomb, with flowers. After the service, there is the Epitaph Procession and all the Processions of the city meet. In the cities, the municipal bands play sad songs and the atmosphere is festive. After the Mass, the people flock to restaurants or tavernas with their friends for ouzo and traditional fish delicacies. On Holy Saturday, the people go to the church at 12 o'clock at night, listen to the Risen Christ hymn, light their candles and take the Holy Light home for blessing. In the courtyard of the Church, Judas is burned, a mannequin dressed in old clothes on a large pile of wood. After the Christ is Risen hymn, the sky is filled with fireworks.

Throughout the Holy Week, at home, housewives cook traditional food and prepare for Easter. On Holy Wednesday, they leaven the Easter buns, the traditional sweet breads. On Great Thursday they prepare dolmades, rice with herbs wrapped in vine leaves, and dye the eggs red. The red eggs symbolize the blood of Christ. On Good Friday, they cook oil-free foods, such as beans with lemon and salt or fasting soups. On Holy Saturday they make kaltsounia, the delicious Cretan sweets with sweet mizithra, and prepare the Resurrection dinner.

Easter Sunday is the biggest holiday of the year. It is the time when relatives travel to be close to their families. Everyone gathers in houses and yards. The table decoration is festive. At first, traditional sweets and red eggs are eaten. The family with the guests crack the red eggs. The lamb is baked in the oven with potatoes or, in the traditional Cretan way, antikrista, with the wood fire in the middle and the meat on grills to the side.

The flowers, the Masses and the festive spirit, the decorated churches, the participation of the people in the customs, the good food and the families, who get together, make Easter the favorite holiday in Crete.

(More articles about Crete on www.gomega.gr)