Red Eggs and Lamb

(I would like to give my friend Jj credit for coming up with this wonderful phrase!)

In case some of you aren’t aware, this last weekend was Greek Easter, or more formally, Pascha.

This is my absolute favorite time of the year in the church. The services are beautiful and the celebration is amazing. Even the lamb has a religious significance. This year, it was my first Pascha celebrated away from home, which was an exciting change for me. What is great is that different churches have different traditions they like to celebrate, so it was nice to see how St. Spyridon celebrated as opposed to the churches I go to back home in Denver.

My “weekend” really started on Wednesday with Holy Unction. I make it a habit to go to unction each year, just because it is a sacrament of the church. Unction is basically holy oil that is blessed and has the powers of healing, so it is usually used to anoint the sick. Nonetheless, it is given out each Holy Wednesday.

Credits to Jj for taking a photo of me receiving Unction! (Photo: Jj Tschetter)
Credits to Jj for taking a photo of me receiving Unction! (Photo: Jj Tschetter)

My night ended with our traditional Holy Wednesday Taco Bell run for dinner and a late night study session at The Cube at CSU with some friends from OCF.

Holy Thursday was a long day. Not only was I in class all day, I also had to get packed up and ready to stay at Jj’s house for the weekend. Since I’m still in the dorms, he wanted to have me over at his house to celebrate Pascha so I wouldn’t be alone. It was so sweet that his family decided to host me for the weekend. He and I have been friends for a really long time, since I was about 15 years old (I’m 20 now, so it’s been about 5 years).

Holy Thursday also marks our traditional late night IHOP run after church (church is 3 hours, so it was over at 10). But let’s first talk church. This service is the one when the 12 Passion Gospels are read, outlining the story of Jesus’s last days. Each Gospel goes in order, from the betrayal to the crucifixion. Towards the end of the service, the clergy processes around the church with the cross before they place it on the solea in the front of the church.

Holy Thursday Matins
Holy Thursday Matins

The Metropolitan of the Diocese was at the church that night. He travels around the Diocese (which includes Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Utah and Arizona), so we were fortunate to have him come to our church during the week.

Then comes IHOP. Unfortunately at the one we went to, they were also hosting a party of 30 high schoolers from a nearby high school. The service was slow, but at the same time, we all felt for the waitresses. They were on the verge of a breakdown because of the obnoxious high schoolers. Other than that, the food was great. I had a severe craving for Belgian waffles, so I got one and it was delicious.

Second year doing our late night IHOP after church.
Second year doing our late night IHOP after church.

I stayed over at Jj’s Thursday night since we were both going to church the next morning to decorate the kouvouklion (the tomb). It was my first time skipping school on Holy Friday to go decorate the kouvouklion; it’s been something I’ve always wanted to do. It was a lot of fun to get the parishioners involved, even the little kids to get it decorated with beautiful flowers. As Jj said, it was “thirty people, one tomb.”

It was a chaotic day. We spent all day at church on Friday, or rather, in Loveland. Between the kouvouklion and the Apokothelasis service, we went to lunch and then shopping for spanakopita ingredients (I will get into that later!). We then had the Apokothelasis service, where Jesus is taken off the cross. It has been ages since I have been to that service. I used to go all the time when I was younger, but I don’t think I’ve been since middle school!

The kouvouklion that I helped to decorate!
The kouvouklion that I helped to decorate!

It was a nice and meaningful service, one of the most important of the entire week. I watched it from the choir loft at St. Spyridon, which gave me an incredible bird’s eye view for the service. (Sidenote: this entire week was crucial for collecting media for my transmedia project).

The Apokothelasis service
The Apokothelasis service

We then headed home and got ready for the service less than 2 hours later (it was crazy!) Jj’s sister, Nicole was coming in town for the weekend from South Dakota, so she was there when we got home. Nicole used to be a counselor at one of the church camps I went to when I was in high school, so that’s how I know her. Now, she’s a broadcast reporter in Rapid City, SD.

One of my other really good friends, Tamsen, also stayed over at the house for the weekend. So the four of us left for church and shocked Jj’s parents by showing up early for the service (what can I say, we’re on Greek time!).

The Holy Friday night service is one of my absolute favorites during Holy Week. I just like the music of the lamentations and the processions outside the church. This year, the procession happened at sunset, which I’ve never experienced; at my home churches, the processions is usually when it’s completely dark. Also, St. Spyridon is smart in using candles in little jars, not long candles with cups. They are a lot easier to hold, and not as much of a fire hazard!

Lamentations service at sunset
Lamentations service at sunset

Friday was also the night I met Chris (aka Baboosh), Nicole’s boyfriend, who was also staying at the house for the weekend. It was definitely a full house! This was his first Pascha, so we joked that it would make a great children’s book titled “Baboosh Goes to Pascha” (we also thought that “Red Eggs and Lamb” would make a great book talking about the traditions of Pascha!).

Nicole and Chris (aka Baboosh)
Nicole and Chris (aka Baboosh)

Saturday was a crazy busy day. Tamsen was at church, so Jj and I went to go get Nicole’s car washed since he wanted to take it for his prom that night, and then we met up with his parents, Nicole and Chris for lunch and then took Chris shopping (“Baboosh Goes to Pascha”: Chapter 1). He wanted to get some nice clothes to wear to church so we headed to Macy’s and picked something out. We then went to pick up Jj’s corsage from the florist and then to Raising Cane’s for chicken tenders for the Pascha basket for church. 25 strips later, we headed home to make spanakopita.

To be honest, I was nervous about making the spanakopita since it was the first time I had made it on my own without my mom. I called her earlier in the morning for the directions. It’s actually a really easy procedure, but it is time consuming (it took about 1.5 hours, not including baking). Tamsen was really excited to learn to make it, as was Jj. Of course, we kicked it off by Greek dancing in the kitchen to the playlist I made for the church party on Sunday.

Spanakopita before the oven
Spanakopita before the oven
The final product!
The final product!

I got really excited when we finished layering it because it looked exactly like my mom’s, which was what I wanted and knew I did it right! We decided to bake it Sunday before we left for the party so it would be the freshest, and it turned out to be the right choice.

By that time, it was already time to send Jj off to prom. I loved going to send my sister off to prom last year. It is one of the perks of being an older sibling – you get to watch your younger siblings go through the same stuff you did. Jj is like a younger brother to me, so it was fun to send him off to prom. I have to say, he probably had the largest entourage there – his parents, Nicole and Chris, and Tamsen and I.

Of course we had to get a selfie before Jj goes to prom.
Of course we had to get a selfie before Jj goes to prom.

Once he was sent off to prom, we returned to his house and just relaxed until we had to get ready to go to the Anastasi service. I ended up taking a two hour nap before starting to get ready. Before I knew it, we were leaving to go to the Anastasi service. The anticipation for the service never gets old. At 11:55 when they start turning off the lights, I get wide-eyed with excitement.

The Anastasi
The Anastasi

Like everything else, the Anastasi comes and goes, leaving us to break the fast and have fellowship until almost 4 in the morning (I ended up going to bed at 4:30!). Everyone brings meat, cheese, wine and whatever else they fasted from during Lent. The Tschetter’s ended up bringing chicken from Cane’s which is a Fort Collins specialty. I was just excited to have an ice cream sandwich.

Christos Anesti!
Christos Anesti!

Later that morning (I’m talking at like 10), we made our Pascha Starbucks run after the “Pascha Bunny” (or Jj Bunny…) visited. I enjoyed giving my own Pascha gifts, given the ridiculous sales on candy the stores had. I also put the spanakopita in the oven. It turned out and tasted fabulous. I was so proud of myself.

Then came time for the church party. They got a good turn out and made wonderful lamb. Our spanakopita was a hit! The pan vanished in no time. I really wish people did dance more. There were about five of us who did. I was just disappointed because I spent two hours making a playlist for the party.

It was fun to be with friends, eating, dancing (and other unmentionables) and just having parea. Definitely better than other Paschas in the past.

Me and my two favorite ladies!
Me and my two favorite ladies!

We ended the day with a Red Robin burger and The Heat.” Overall, it was an amazing weekend. I am so blessed I was able to stay with the Tschetters. They were my second family for the weekend. Without them, I don’t think I would have had such a wonderful weekend.

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