This year Greek Orthodox Easter and Easter in the Western church happen on the same day, which means Holy Week for both Churches coincide. Here in Astoria you can witness the epitaphios – the Greek street procession on the eve of Orthodox Good Friday. Each year it happens up in the Ditmars neighborhood, where local Greek Orthodox churches get together to put on this demonstration of their faith. As I wrote over on About.com:
This street procession, known as epitaphios, starts on 23rd Ave in front of St. Irene Chrysovalantou Monastery, proceeds along 31st St to Ditmars, ending at St. Markella Cathedral on 26th St. Congregants from the Greek Orthodox community participate. As you smell the incense and hear the brass band playing, you’ll see girls dressed in white satin robes, older women in black robes, and men carrying the floral tomb containing a representation of Jesus.
It is very cool – the sights, sounds, and smells really prepare you for the Easter feast day that is to come. Here’s a video that was taken in 2009, which shows the processional with some of the music and all the lights held by the many in the procession.
A good spot to watch the procession is outside of local Greek bakery/cafe Lefkos Pyrgos on the corner of 23rd Ave and 31st Street. The festivities start around 7pm on Friday night – there’s a lot of staging that happens, people getting ready to process down 23rd Ave, and a lamentations service is part of the evening, so you might not be able to catch much until 8pm, but to be safe, 7pm is fine arrival time to the intersection of 23rd Ave and 31st St. Lefkos Pyrgos has delicious sweet offerings and coffee, and there is food up and down the block of 31st between 23rd Ave and Ditmars.
Let us know what you think of the epitaphios if you witness it!