After 40 days of fasting (or maybe even a few days), it’s undeniable that almost all Greeks are desperately waiting to devour a spit-roasted lamb on Easter Sunday.
But why do we have this tradition?
Lamb referenced in the Old Testament
The religious significance of the lamb began in the Old Testament. In Genesis 22, when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham obeyed God obediently and made his preparations for his sacrifice. When Isaac saw what his father was doing, he asked, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? Although Abraham didn’t really want to, he was ready to do what God wanted him to do. When God saw that he was willing to obey, He told Abraham to stop. Abraham sacrificed a lamb nearby, instead. In the Old Testament, lambs were offered as sacrifices to God to atone for their sins.
Jesus is the Lamb of God
John, the author of one of the four gospels, called Jesus the Lamb of God in John 1:29 and John 1:36. As illustrated in the story pictured above about Abraham, sacrificing an animal, such as a lamb or a ram, was an important part of Jewish religion. In Isaiah 53:10 the practice is referred to as a “guilt offering.” By doing this, people were offering God restitution for the sins they had committed. As Christians, we no longer need to engage in this practice. Because Christ died on the cross for our sins, he became the sacrificial lamb. Since Easter, or Easter, is the day we commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus, we eat lamb in remembrance of this selfless act.
Preparing the lamb in the Souvla
There are some differences in how the lamb is prepared depending on the family and even the region of Greece. By far, the most common way for Greeks to cook lamb is to place it whole on a souvla or spit. Although you can find mechanized spindles that rotate automatically, these are quite rare. Instead, rotating the lamb in turns is an important part of the feast. In some families, the men are responsible for caring for the lamb while the women do the rest of the preparations.
This meal usually takes place at Easter or Easter. Some families eat their lamb early in the morning after returning from Holy Saturday service because they are eager to finally break the fast. Others wait until later in the day until all the Greek family and friends come to celebrate.
Some roast a whole lamb on a spit, others sear the legs on the grill, and still others roast it in the oven. One thing is certain, it’s not Easter without him!
In fact, the Greeks are not the only ones to feel this. It is a common Easter dish in many cultures, especially throughout Europe.
READ MORE: ATHENS: Vegans protest ‘barbaric’ Greek custom of lamb for Easter.