Easter in Heaven

I came across this photo last weekend as I was scanning  pictures from my mother’s album. It was Easter, 1981, and our extended family had congregated at my parents’ home for a traditional Greek Easter dinner.

Easter 1981

l-r: Uncle Nick Pouletsos, Uncle Peter Connell, Aunt Pauline Connell, Aunt Frieda Stakis

This photo has unleashed a plethora of memories for me — a lifetime of family gatherings and activities. While my Easter table will be bereft of these and other elders, my grandparents’ will now be complete; brothers and sisters reunited; cousins together. A loving family on earth now together in heaven.

It is tempting to speculate on how my parents and relatives will celebrate Easter in heaven. One thing I believe is that they will:  “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” (Romans 6:8)

As I prepare for this most holy of holidays, I cling to familial and cultural patterns as my anchor of tradition, and to the Savior as my anchor of faith.

Our traditional Easter dinner of roast lamb symbolizes the Lamb of God, our Redeemer.

  • Our recitation of “Christos Anesti,” (Christ has Risen) attests to the reality of the resurrection.
  • Bright red eggs “kokkina avga” on the table symbolize the blood of Christ that was shed for each of us.
  • The breaking of eggs symbolizes Christ breaking the bands of death and coming forth from the tomb. Each person takes a red egg and cracks the ends with another person. This proceeds around the table until one individual is left with an unbroken egg, and he/she can expect to have good luck throughout the year.
  • Partaking of the “tsoureki,” or Easter bread, reminds us that Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life. (John 6:48: “I am that bread of life.”)

On Easter Sunday, my husband and I will travel to our son’s home to celebrate with his family. On Greek Easter, which falls the following weekend, we will travel to my cousin’s home to celebrate again — this time, with our extended family. As my parents and their siblings traveled to be together on holidays, now it is my turn to visit my cousins and continue the good traditions which have united our family for generations.

As I read the words of the Apostle Paul this Easter season, I truly believe my family in heaven will unite with me in rejoicing: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten to us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3).

Christos Anesti to you and your family!

(this article was published in Meridian Magazine, March 16, 2012; a link can also be found here on my blog)

Aridas or Mihalakakos?

My paternal grandmother, Hariklia Aridas (Χαρικλεια Αριδας), was born in the village of Agios Ioannis (St. Johns), just outside Sparta. As I began my research, people would comment that Aridas was an unusual Greek name — one they had not come across in the past. My curiosity was raised, especially when I received a Town Register from St. Johns that listed an Aridas family and saw that one of the names in this family was Konstandinos Mihalakakos (see below). I just assumed that Konstandinos was a relative who was living with the family.

Until… sometime later, I connected online with another Aridas descendant who sent me an email with the following: “As for Kosta Mihalakakos, that is Kosta Aridas. My uncle wrote my mother back in the late 940’s that he had uncovered the real name for Aridas as Mihalakakos. He said that one of the ancestors had long legs (αριβας) which is what Aridas translates to from arida (leg). It was a nickname that stuck.”

Well, that is fascinating information but now I’m really stumped. Who knows how far back the name was changed, and in which village the family was living when it was changed? Did all of the family change their name, or only the descendants of the “ancestor with the long legs?”

So, where do I go from here? Do I look for both Mihalakakos and Aridas names? I think that’s a good start. There are few digitized online records through the Greek Archives (http://arxeiomnimon.gak.gr/index.html). I looked at the 1872 Electoral Rolls from Agios Ioannis, and there is no Aridas or Mihalakakos listed. Not a good sign. For now, I’m stumped. Stay tuned…

Resources

I had the opportunity to assist Thomas MacEntee, a blogger, writer and educator, in compiling resources for an article on Greek Genealogy which he wrote for Family Tree Magazine’s  upcoming May/June 2012 issue. In the process, I contacted several Greek genealogy friends and we worked together to assemble a list of websites, blogs, Facebook pages, books and other resources. I’ve put our compiled list under my Resources tab. Please take a look – there should be something there that will help you. Also, be sure to follow the Hellenic Genealogy Geek blog, which is a fabulous resource that is continuously being updated by Georgia Keilman.