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Greek Bakers Prepare Sweetly For Easter

St. Haralambos Church in Niles holds a bake sale of delectable Mediterranean pastries.

Maria Dimitrou knows her way around flour, sugar, eggs, nuts and honey--lots and lots of honey.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Dimitrou stood with other women members--and bakers--at St. Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church in Niles, serving to customers the pastries they had spent weeks baking. 

Dimitrou, the daughter of a baker from Greece,  was one of the members of the church's Ladies Philoptochos (friend of the poor) Society, making the light, almond-crowned Easter bread, as well as other Greek sweets. The sale benefitted the church. 

"They baked 1,000 loaves of the Easter bread. There are only 12 left," said Georgia Botsis, pointing to the dozen loaves of tsoureki clustered on a long folding table.

They also made 8,000 koulourakia, or twist cookies, in many varieties. 

"We make everything here from scratch," continued Botsis, who is known at the church as the presvytera, or priest's wife. "About 30 ladies have been baking for a month." 

They started with cookies,which stay fresh longer, then made the breads and lighter items just before the bake sale.

"The Philoptochos Society is famous for their sesame cookies," said Georgia Litsogiannis, a volunteer who was in charge of making lambathes, the decorated candles Greek Orthodox worshippers light during the midnight liturgy on Easter. 

The volunteers also dyed 6,000 eggs red, the traditional color for celebrating Easter in Greece because it symbolizes the blood Christ shed on the cross, Botsis said. 

They also baked baklava; galaktoboureko, a custard torte; diples, fried pastries with honey;  karidopita, spiced walnut cake; kataifi, shredded filo with walnut filling and syrup; kourambiethes, butter cookies, and malomakarouna, spice cookies. 

Customers hauled boxes of sweets, candles and Easter baskets to the checkout, where volunteers wished them a happy Easter.  Orthodox Easter falls on April 24 this year, the same day as in the Roman Catholic calendar.

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