Lazarus’ Breads

On Saturday before the Holy Week, in many parts of Greece women used to bake anthropomorphic breads called ‘lazarakia’ to celebrate St Lazarus’ resurrection.

According to the old customs groups of girls called lazarines used to go around the village from home to home carrying baskets decorated with spring flowers and aromatic herbs, singing Lazarus’s carols and announcing the coming Easter feast:

“…Wake up Lazarus today is your day of joy {…}
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday and we’ll eat mackerel
but next Sunday we will feast on Easter lamb!”

They were rewarded with fruits, eggs and sweet treats.

Kalambaka, Central Greece, 1971.

In some Santorini villages a large cross is decorated with fragrant rosemary and spring flowers.
Lazarakia breads are shaped like swaddled babies and each woman was supposed to bake one for every child in the family, a kind of edible doll.

Since I was about to bake bread today, I decided to shape the loaves into lazarakia. I used my usual dough, substituting 2 tablespoons of coarsely ground aniseeds for the mixed aromatics. I used black currants for the mouth and pumpkin seeds for the eyes, expecting them to roast and darken, but, unfortunately they didn’t.

To make the ‘hands’ I added some flour to a piece of reserved dough, rolled it into a thin rope, flattened and cut the strips. I placed them on the body of the shaped loaves after the second rising, when the breads were ready to go into the oven. To make them more attractive and help the ‘hands’ stick to the loaves, I glazed the breads liberally with egg yolk and milk.


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