Where the technicolor, somewhat debauched Carnival ends, the 40-day religious fast, or nisteia begins. When strictly observed, the basically vegan diet forbids the consumption of olive oil on Wednesdays and Fridays and all animal products (apart from shellfish) throughout. The fast concludes in the early hours of Easter Sunday, when humble lentils, grains and the like are replaced by shiny red eggs and creamy offal soup. Nisteia is observed several times in the Greek Orthodox calendar, however the 40 day period leading up to Easter is by far the longest and strictest.
Megali Evdomada or Holy Week is the seven days leading up to Kyriaki Tou Pascha, or Easter Sunday. Pascha is Greece’s most momentous holiday, equivalent to Christmas in the UK or US, as it honors the divine triumph of Christ over death and earthly suffering. For the devout, the week preceding it is filled with religious services in church and time-honored traditions at home. Many of the foods enjoyed on Easter Sunday are prepared during this week – koulouraki biscuits are made on Holy Tuesday, Easter eggs are dyed red (to symbolize the blood of Christ) and tsoureki (a sweet bread) is prepared on Holy Thursday.