On board on a Ryanair flight to Thessaloniki.
There is something about three-hour flights that make them utterly boring.
I browse the pages of a women’s magazine. I don’t know why women’s magazines are such dull pieces of reading. Nevertheless, I go through it several times in search of something that will sustain my spirits during the 180 minutes of suspension in the stratosphere. I am particularly entertained by a proposed outfit that looks like a desperate dive into the laundry basket.
When I land, in the heart of Greek Easter, a bit after eight o’clock, it is still hot. Hot as in tank tops and flip-flops. Grilling the traditional lamb is bound to be a sweaty, sticky story…
It is Easter Thursday, the day for dying eggs and baking Easter breads. I won’t be doing any of the two. I am picked up my childhood friend and we go to mass somewhere close to the airport, before chatting over a late coffee.
When I wake up the next morning, it is already Good Friday. Through a last minute arrangement I tag along some friends for a tour around the old Byzantine churches of central Thessaloniki. We seek shade under the church-yard trees and leave flowers at the epitafios, the flower-clad bier, symbolising the body of Christ.
I like Easter, although it is admittedly not a light-weight festivity. On the contrary, it is as dramatic as Aristotle’s definition of tragedy…
“…with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its katharsis of such emotions.”
It speaks to us, because it is a reflection of life. It stands for a process you know you have to go through even though you would rather not. Everyone can relate to its inner meaning.
In ancient times, people believed that the harvest-goddess, Demeter, would stall vegetation during the cold season, in mourning over her daughter, Persephone, married to Hades, ruler of the kingdom of the dead.
Then, in spring, Persephone would return from her winter abode, and Demeter’s heart would explode of motherly joy. The absence of colours would turn into a magnificent display of fertility and growth.
That is what I see in Easter.
I see the unsollicited grief and pain, followed by the reassurance that somewhere beneath that seemingly lifeless surface, life is strong and palpitating, alive and kicking, ready to overturn the odds.