Why Do Greeks Roast Lamb on Easter?

For Greeks all over the world, “Pascha” Easter Sunday is the biggest religious day of the year. Greek Orthodox Easter is symbolized by a savoury whole lamb rotating and roasting for 6 hours on a spit over charcoal. Let’s not forget the amazing aroma that goes along with it.

Yet, this is not just an old tradition. Contrarily, the particular meat has deep religious symbolism. In John 1:29 and John 1:36, John, the author of one of the four Gospels, refers to Jesus as the “Lamb of God”. Being a crucial component of the Hebrew religion, Abraham was required to sacrifice an animal like a lamb or a ram. People offered God restitution for their sins.

Yet since Christ was the sacrificial lamb and died on the cross for their sins, Christians are no longer required to offer sacrifices. We eat lamb in commemoration of Jesus’ unselfish act because Pascha, or Easter, is the day we commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus.

The lamb’s symbolism first appeared in the Old Testament. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, after obeying God, Abraham began to prepare the sacrifice. When Isaac saw what his father was doing he asked, “The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Though Abraham didn’t truly want to kill his son, he was willing to obey what God wanted him to do. When God saw that he was willing to obey, He told Abraham to stop. Abraham sacrificed a nearby lamb, instead.

Greeks today spend “Pascha” (Easter Sunday) morning slowly roasting the lamb (and kokoretsi for some) before the entire big Greek family sits down to feast. Greeks celebrate with dancing, drinking, and eating lots of delicious appetizers before eating the lamb which usually takes 5-6 hours to be ready. Many Greeks even eat the lamb right off the spit as it is cooking. Opa!

Greek Orthodox Christians greet one another on “Pascha” Easter Sunday and for the next 40 days they say: “Christos Anesti” “Christ is Risen,” to which the other person responds, “Alithos Anesti” “Truly He is Risen.”

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