It has been a hectic couple of weeks at our house. Last time I wrote Holy Week and Easter were approaching. We were fortunate enough to have my parents and brother and his family visiting for Easter. It was wonderful to all be together and have the cousins be able to hang out and do all of the things that a an almost three year old and four year old would do when they are together. There were so many great snapshots of their trip including Miss K’s first ever Easter egg hunt! Melissa did a phenomenal job organizing everything and of course it went off without a hitch expect for the baskets that I forgot to bring. Fitting that the kids ran around in shopping bags to fill up!
The week continued with yiayia and pappou staying on which meant early morning snuggles and of course a morning koulouraki for the kid. Yes I know it isn’t the breakfast of champions but hey when they visit they get to spoil her and I’m okay with that. I swear regardless if my family is here for three days or two weeks the time flies by. We were lucky to have yiayia and pappou here for Miss K’s third birthday. Yes you read that right, my baby is three. Well now she tells me that, “I’m a big girl now, but don’t worry mama, I’ll always be your baby.” Yes you will be. We are so lucky to have a healthy, smart, funny little girl full of personality and yes sometimes attitude. She definitely speaks her mind and lets you know who is in charge. There are days that this drains me to the core, I won’t lie, but on the other days it makes me so proud. I want her to be feisty and fiery. I want her to challenge and always question in order to learn. I want her to have compassion and the courage to speak her mind.
My wishes for her as she enters her third year are: first and foremost health, because without our health we are nothing. Secondly I hope that she can see the love that her father (along with so many family members and friends) have for her and bring that with her in everything she does. Remember that she’s good enough when the other little girl doesn’t want to play with her. Remember that she can climb the rock wall when it looks so scary through her little eyes. Remember that she can sound out that word in the book, as she tells me, “I want to read it mommy.” And thirdly, I want her to grow. Obviously that is a given you’ll say, she’s three of course she’ll grow. But I mean more than in height and weight. I mean into the little lady that she is becoming. I mean into the compassionate child who wanted us to help the birdie stuck in the neighbours vent on the side of the house; who wanted us to go back when we saw the ambulance wheeling out a lady from her house, to make sure she was okay. This is what is important in life. You can have all the money in the world but if you don’t have your health, you aren’t surrounded by love and you don’t have compassion, what is the point of living?
Happy Birthday Little Lady. I love you to the moon and back. And yes, you will ALWAYS be my baby!
And so it has begun, we’re into our blessed Holy Week and Easter time. It started for us on Palm Sunday. When the twice a year folks come out in full force to attend church and receive Holy Communion. Now I have to say that since my kid became a toddler our frequency of attending church has lessened but it doesn’t go unnoticed. I honestly had no idea that our church had so many children under the age of five that belonged to it. Where are you all hiding I wanted to shout? Why don’t you come out more often? This way we could have programs for the little people. Since I didn’t feel right shouting this in the middle of a standing room only church where administering communion to those who wanted to partake took over 30 minutes, I did the best I could to keep my toddler quiet. I know some people don’t bother going with little ones because it is too much work. I agree, the fight before of why she couldn’t wear her SuperGirl cape on top of her dress was a doozy but in the end, mom won (this one time). We will be in attendance on Good Friday at the apokathilosi and since the Epitafio is around bedtime over here we’ll be passing on that one. Although I do have to say, I miss it. I miss spending every night of the week at church. There is something to be said as you listen to the Hymn of the Kassiani on Holy Tuesday, receive the Holy Unction on Holy Wednesday and hear the reading of the 12 Gospels on Holy Thursday. A feeling of calmness comes over me, in my case, and gets me prepared for the Epitafio on Good Friday and then the Anastasi Service which takes place the evening of Holy Saturday into Easter Sunday.
Our traditions may be seen as weird by some or gross by others, but to me they bring comfort. I’ll never forget watching my mom making magiritsa (my American friends called this lamb gut soup) for the first time. Or being on the telephone chatting with a friend while my mom tried to crack the lamb’s skull open to get to the “good stuff” as I was told. Really how do you explain this over the phone to a non-Greek? Sorry about the banging but we’re just trying to get to the lamb brain. Or what about the cross on the doorway of your home with the Holy Light from Anastasi. Try explaining that to the fire chief and firefighters who come to your home for a contained fire. But those of you reading this who are Greek, with a Greek or married to a Greek get it. Easter wouldn’t be the same without the red eggs, the lambathes, the Xristos Anesti or the lamb and potatoes. Easter is a celebration of life. Chirst is risen and may He rise up through each and every one of us. I wish you all a Blessed Holy Week and a Kalo Pasxa.
Click here for a Magiritsa recipe from my friend Peter Minaki, aka Kalofagas.
As I began to think about what to write about this week, Ι couldn’t let the week pass by without acknowledging the Sarakosti. Sarakosti or the Great Lent, is the 40 day Lenten period that starts with Clean Monday and ends on Holy Saturday night. I remember growing up and clean Monday was a big deal. My mom would make a lagana, we’d have tarama, and even though we were restricted in our eating, we made a party out of it. My husband, although not one to go to church, does usually fast before Easter and Christmas. This year he decided 50 days over the typical 40 days. It is a man’s prerogative to do as he likes. I have been trying to come up with some great Lenten recipes and came across something that I had personally never seen before, the Sarakosti poem. I think it will be a perfect way to begin to explain Lent to my almost three year old. As a former Sunday School teacher, I honestly can’t believe I didn’t come across this earlier in life as it would have been an amazing tool to use with the children. For my friends with little ones or those of you who are current Sunday School teachers, please check out the link here . A big thank you to our friends over at Orthodox Mom for bringing this great tradition to our attention.
As we embark on the Great Lent, prayers is also such an important part. Our nightly ritual is to kiss Panagia’s icon before making our way into my daughter’s room. Since she’s still young, all of the icons in her room are hung high up where she can’t reach. Over 15 years ago, during my Sunday School teaching days, we made this icon with our students. I still have it today and it is on a table as you enter our home. She must pass by it to reach her room so it has become the ritual to say thank you to Panagia, kiss the icon and off to bed we go. I was thinking how I could incorporate something more during Lent. I was able to find an easy toddler prayer on the website of the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Lowell, MA of all places, bringing it back to Massachusetts.
Praying With Toddlers: each them early to venerate icons and to Cross themselves. Explain simple concepts of God and Jesus. Pray with them by helping enumerate their blessings: Jesus loves my _______ . Thank you God, for _______ .
Child’s Prayer: Heavenly Father, bless my parents and all those who love and care for me. Help me in all ways to be respectful and obedient to them according to Your will. Send down upon me Your grace to perform all my duties carefully and faithfully, to avoid unacceptable company and influence and to resist all temptation that may come my way. Help me Lord to live a serious, good and godly life, praising You constantly and glorifying Your holy Name. Amen.
Your child is never too young or too old to begin to pray. They have a wonderful Orthodox Prayer Book, that you can find in full here. Thank you to the Transfiguration Community for this wonderful resource.
Kαλη σαρακοστή σε ολλους σας.
Well what a busy two weeks it has been. Since the last time I wrote we had family visiting to celebrate the little Miss’ birthday. I know everyone says it but seriously I can’t believe how the last year has flown by. The first year is a whirlwind as you’re sleep deprived, unsure what to do with this tiny human. The second year is different, you’re still unsure of what to do with this human but from a different perspective. How to get them to stop jumping on the furniture or wanting to run in the street. Trying to understand everything that they’re saying to you and helping them not get mad when they can’t communicate. Trying to make sure you instill in them the important this in life for that age, things like: confidence, sharing, and trying to be an all around well natured child.
This year we had multiple events to celebrate the big day and were so lucky to have family and friends with us. We went right from the parties to Orthodox Easter or Pascha as we call it. It is a very special time of year where we are do things a little bit different than our other Christian friends. First off is the date, Orthodox Easter always falls after Passover. This year it was over a month after Catholic Easter. Next year it will be together and then not again for eight years. We’re not big into the bunny and chocolates. We’re more into red dyed eggs and candles lit at midnight. Regardless of how you incorporate traditions into your Pascha, I hope it Χριστός Ανέστη!
Lastly we celebrated the Nameday of a special man in our lives, Παππού Γιώργο! Pappou George and all of the George and Georgias celebrate their Nameday the Monday after Pascha when it falls after April 23rd. So this past Mondya we celebrated him and other cousins, aunts and uncles with those names. Να σας χαιρόμαστε και να είσαστε πολύχρονη!
I know religion is such a hot topic most of the time. Recently I was home with the little one on a Sunday morning and two kind individuals took the time to come knock on my door and want to invite me to Jesus’ funeral. They had a paper invitation and everything. Now as a woman who spent 12 years in Catholic School, 4 years in a Jesuit College, countless years as a Sunday School student and teacher and a lifetime at Sunday Mass, I’m not one to shy away from a conversation around religion. While I thanked the individuals for stopping by and their invitation I let them know I’d happily invite them to come to my church the week after their ‘funeral’ (I am Greek Orthodox after all) and see a funeral done properly. One that includes flowers, an Ἐπιτάφιο, chanting, etc. I also told them I’d happily host them on Holy Saturday night for midnight mass and they can be part of the amazing service where the church lights and candles are all turned off/put out and the priest comes out with the Αγιο Φος (Holy Light) to represent Jesus’ resurrection. Needless to say the individuals left and took their invitation with them as they had no desire to speak about religion but rather just wanted to tell me about their religion.
This got me thinking about all of the wonderful traditions that we’re about to embark on with the little lady for the first time. Not only are we about to celebrate του Ευαγγελισμου and Greek Independence Day tomorrow but also the important Easter traditions that will be coming soon after that. As a Greek it is special because I know that I’ll be passing down traditions that have been passed down from generations. From Palm Sunday Mass to dying red Easter eggs on Holy Thursday, to making κουλουρακια with γιαγια, I can’t wait to see the excitement in her eyes.
I was able to find this site of Greek Poems which brought me back to my Greek School days and the events that we’d have. Dressed up in our Vasilissa Amalia outfits and the boys as τσολιαδες, standing in front of the community and reciting poems that our parents recited before us. Remembering the struggles and just having an overall sense of pride. My father served as an Evzone in the Greek Army. He stood at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and represented Greece abroad. He did his part for his country. I can only hope that one day my daughter understands what this meant. This will be done by more than just standing on a parade route and shouting Ζητο! This will be done by living our Greekness.
A friend once said that he didn’t want to be a plate breaking, τιροπιτα eating Greek. I say bring that on because it is part of who we are, but don’t stop there. Let’s teach the next generation about the history of then and the history that is taking shape in Greece today. Let’s remind them that Greece is more than φραππεδες and beautiful beaches. Let’s do our job and raise the next generation of ελληνακια right!
For my friends celebrating in Toronto you can find parade information here. For my friends celebrating in Boston you can find parade information here.
Ζητο η 25η Μαρτιου! Ζητο η Ελευθερία!
Η Ελλαδα ποτε δεν πεθενει!