By Paulina Björk Kapsalis
For us Greeks, Easter is all about returning to our roots. We love coming home to our villages and opening our houses and hearts to the warm spring air, embracing each other and the customs of our ancestors. For a visitor, meanwhile, Easter is a chance to experience Greek spring and take part in celebrations steeped in centuries-old traditions. This year at Costa Navarino, guests are invited to experience all of the customs that make this time of year our most cherished, and some that have been specially designed to reconnect us with our past. Greece’s greater history is, quite literally, served on a plate.
A traditional get-together
At Navarino Dunes, the area of Costa Navarino that is home to The Westin Resort Costa Navarino and The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort, we join the locals in all of the traditions, and each day comes with its own set of customs and foods.
On the morning of Good Friday, at the little church of St. Sampson, the scent of flowers fills the air as we decorate the wooden bier holding the Epitaphios embroidery (symbolizing the funerary bier of Christ). In the evening, after a day of sampling local treats and a special classical concert, we then walk behind the bier in solemn candlelit procession. The next morning, we watch as local women prepare the lambrokouloura (Easter bread) while our kids make lanterns and lampades (Easter candles), watch magicians and theater performances, and compete in an egg design competition at the Easter Fair. Another evening with live music then culminates in the celebration of the Resurrection, the lighting of our lampades with the holy fire that’s travelled here from Jerusalem, and a late-night dinner complete with everyone’s favorite Eastertide game – red-egg-tapping.
Finally, on Easter Sunday, the kids set out on a treasure hunt while we enjoy appetizers, traditional music and Greek dances at the Agora before we indulge in the much-awaited feast including the spit-roasted Easter lamb at restaurants Morias and Pero.
A homecoming for nomads
Most of what we do at Easter somehow echo the celebrations of our ancestors. Some aspects of those traditions, however, have been lost in the mists of time. Exclusively for adults and young adults over 12 years old, W Costa Navarino, located at the vibrant new area Navarino Waterfront, has partnered with the culinary project Nomade et Sauvage to revive some of those traditions this year, and present an alternative to the traditional Easter offerings.
On the sandy beach of the resort, fragrant dishes inspired by Christian Orthodox tradition bubble and crackle in handmade ovens and clay cooking pots and cauldrons over open fires, at cooking stations set up for the event. On Holy Thursday, dishes are cooked with ninety percent foraged wild ingredients. On Good Friday, strictly Lenten food is cooked underground. On the Eve of Holy Saturday, the magiritsa (offal soup) simmers in cauldrons over open fires. Finally, on Easter Sunday, tender meat slow roasting over open fires fills the air with mouth-watering aroma along the shore. Each meal is a majestic treat for the senses, and the thought behind them makes us appreciate them even more. As chef and founder of the project, Jordan Tseneklidis, explains: “Cooking devices looked the same throughout history; an ancient pot was much like one in the early 20th century. Then, with the hasty electrification of the country, they changed, and these methods and customs were lost as a result.” Therefore, this Easter, cooking methods that defined Greek food throughout history but have since been abandoned, are reignited.
Besides the meals, we join workshops where we learn to cook with Messinian products, bake tsoureki (sweet bread), color eggs with natural ingredients, and forage for herbs to turn into natural extracts and distillates – all designed to help us return to our roots. Between the meals and workshops, we enjoy yoga and meditation sessions.
After the final feast, renowned DJs hit the decks at Parelia – because as we all know, no homecoming is complete without a party.