Landing here on Megali Pempti (Holy Thursday) is diving into the deep end of the pool. Pascha is a combination of Christmas and carnivale — the kids get gifts and are allowed to stay up late, and the adults put lambs on spits and drink and dance around the roast beasts, all under the cover of observing a holyday.
The trains are jammed, the roads are jammed, the stores are jammed, and our complex is jammed. The homicidal driving tactics of Athens are exported to every corner of the countryside.
The charm of it is various and widespread. I am amazed at the courtesy of teenagers on shoulder-to-shoulder trains — they know how to raise kids in this country. Friday night, the coffin of Christ was processed down the main road and everyone — everyone — piled out of this complex to join the procession. At midnight last night, as Christ’s resurrection was announced, the little church in the little village just behind us sent up a tremendous display of fireworks, something obviously supported by contributions from the entire community. And until you’ve had strips of lamb pulled from the rotating spit as soon as it’s edible, well, you just don’t know lamb.
It’s a challenge to the faculties to step out of a plane and immediately transition from the quiet and serene to the loud and unrelenting, from the numbingly familiar to the incomprehensibly different, from one family per acre to 30 extended families — and their cars and their bikes and their charcoal pits — per acre, from the close forest to the wide open sea, from understanding too much of everything that’s said to grasping at recognition of an occasional word, from knowing how to get things done to guessing who to ask.
There’s no other place to be at Pascha. Imagine families celebrating Christmas publicly and communally and not just the children but also the adults, with the excitement of expectation gleaming as bright in the eyes of the oldest as in the youngest. That’s something of Pascha here. Freedom and permission to be joyful and to show it. It’s good to be back.