The lambada – the Greek Easter Candle – not to be mistaken for the glorious 80’s hit Lambada (see below)
is lit to represent the resurrection of Christ – new life, new beginnings. The godparents are typically the ones who provide their godsons and goddaughters lambades. Adults are usually cool with just holding a very simple white candle, typically purchased at the church. Kids, however, get a candle with some sort of toy, or decoration, or trinket, on it.
Lambades look like this:
(photos taken at the Leonidas chocolate shop in Kifisia, Athens)
Honestly, I wonder how kids are really supposed to hold some of these without lighting themselves on fire. I haven’t looked up the stats on how many incidents occur at Greek Orthodox churches all around the world during holy week, but…are we crazy? Let’s just give our kids gigantic candles wrapped in various synthetic materials (that are probably mostly flammable) and light ‘em up. And have them stand next to one another. And behind and in front of people. Candles lit. It’s actually a very beautiful ceremony, and if you’ve never seen one before, it usually looks something like this.
Once everyone has the light of god, they’ve gotta get it home. Most people walk home if they live close to church. We would drive home, candles lit the whole way, careful not to light ourselves on fire. I couldn’t find any photos of what that looks like because it’s probably illegal.
I stopped holding a lambada long ago. Why? Because on one particular Holy Saturday night, having arrived at church on the early side, we took seats in one of the rows of pews. It’s often rare to find seats on Holy Saturday because it’s typically the one day everyone shows up at church. So there I am, age 11 or so, standing there, holding the light of god in my hands, letting my eyes wander, taking in the sights and sounds and smells. It was all flowers and candles and psalm and incense and being holy.
Before I even realized what was happening…whoosh! Up in flames goes the hair of the woman standing in front of me. It was 1992 and she had permed, long ringlets of Maria Carey hair, tied back with a scrunchie at the nape of the neck. I had lit a woman’s hair on fire.
I remember standing back, frozen in horror and shock – everyone around us smacking her back again and again, until the flames went out. She pulled the scrunchie out, finger combed her hair, curtly accepted my apology. We all proceeded to follow the rest of the evening’s church service – the smell of burnt hair mingling with the smell of incense. And my lambada, light of god extinguished, abandoned on the pew next to me.