Why do Greeks cook lamb on a spit on Easter Sunday?

We all know and rather look forward to cooking the lamb on a spit on Easter Sunday, but in reality, why do we do it?

The customs of Easter are many but few know exactly what they symbolize.

Lamb on Spit_Greek Easter Food
Lamb on Spit on Easter Sunday


Tradition deriving from the Jewish Passover

The skewering of the lamb on Easter Sunday is a beloved custom, deriving from the Jewish Passover, directly related to the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. According to this tradition, before they set out for the great exodus, God through Moses told the multitude of Jews to gather in small groups and sacrifice all the families of one lamb.

With blood, they had to paint the doorposts of their houses so that they would not be annihilated by the angel of God. Whichever family did not have a marked house with the lamb’s blood, then the angel of God that night would bring death to the firstborn of every family. Therefore, a crowd of one million Jews left Egypt at the behest of Pharaoh himself.

That night, on the way out, each family offered as a sacrifice to God a lamb for the salvation of all the people. They ate it, without breaking its bones, along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

Lamb on Spit_Greek Easter Food
Lamb on Spit on Greek Easter Sunday


Tradition defines the lamb as the symbol of Jesus

Another tradition defines the lamb as a symbol of Jesus Christ because John the Baptist had likened Jesus to the lamb of God who will take upon himself the sins of the world. Believers share the Passover lamb symbolizing Christ, who was sacrificed for us. The Jewish shepherds were the ones who slaughtered and offered the lambs as a sacrifice to God to honor and thank him. But then the Christians established Easter as their holiday.

On Easter Sunday, in addition to eggs, in some places, the Easter Lamb is consecrated and distributed to the church by the pope. They bring their portion home and all their family members get the sanctified meat.

Kokoretsi_Greek Easter Food
Kokoretsi on Greek Easter Sunday


Lamb in Greece

In addition, it is widely known that lambs and goats existed exist throughout Greece, making it easy to obtain meat. All over Greece, lamb, goat, and kokoretsi have their day of honor.

On the evening of Easter Sunday, the Vespers of Love takes place in the Church. Christians exchange wishes reading the Gospel in various languages. From Easter Sunday and for 40 days the Orthodox Christians greet each other saying "Christ is Risen" and answering "Truly Risen".

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