Lazarus Saturday is a special day in the Orthodox Church, and celebrates the final, great miracle of Jesus Christ before His Resurrection. Today prefigures His own death, and demonstrates His Authority over death. Seeing His friend is already four days dead, Jesus sheds tears and cries out: “Lazarus, come forth!”
After the Resurrection of Christ, St. Lazarus lived for another 30 years and became the first Bishop of Kition in Cyprus.
In Orthodox countries, on Lazarus Saturday, children go house to house with decorated hand baskets, singing Lazarus Carols, and sharing Lazarakia. Sometimes coins are popped into the children’s baskets by parishioners, as a donation for the church. Some folks slip lenten treats to the children, which they take home and share with their families. It is also customary to collect wildflowers, palms, and branches on this day to adorn homes, as the next day is the feast of Palm Sunday.
There are many ways to make Lazarakia. Although fresh is best, you may certainly bake them ahead of time, and they freeze well.
Here is our own family recipe. It’s a bit different from the recipe on YouTube (seen near bottom of page), but it makes approximately the same quantity of Lazarakia buns as described in the video – depending of course… on the forms’ shapes and sizes. We basically do the same dough preparation as in the video. However, we prefer to braid the Lazarakia and use peppercorns for the eyes, instead of whole clove sticks.
- 1 and 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 2 tsp. yeast
- 4 – 5 cups flour
- Zest of half an orange
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup liquid honey
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1/8 tsp. ground anise (optional)
- peppercorns for the eyes
- Bake in 370 degree oven for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until golden brown. (Baking time depends on the size of the Lazarakia.)
- For “Bun-Shine” – a glossy vegan finish, use an extra couple of Tbsp. of olive oil for brushing onto the hot, baked, Lazarakia, after they come out of the oven.
Here is an excellent YouTube video. It’s easy to follow, with well explained how to’s… Step by step instructions show different ways to form the Lazarakia.
Lazarus Saturday will soon be here! I hope you enjoy the sweet venture of making and/or sharing traditional Lazarakia.