Greeks prepare for first Easter of post-bailout era on tight budgets

Greeks are getting prepared to celebrate their first Easter of the post-bailout era this weekend on tight budgets, as they got accustomed to do in the past decade of the debt crisis which brought the country to the brink of disorderly default.

The debt-ridden economy has returned to growth and exited the last bailout program last August, but Greek households and businesses have still not felt any change in their finances, retailers and consumers have said.

This year’s typical festive meal will remain frugal, with the average cost for 6-8 persons reaching 93 euros from 92.7 euros in 2018 and 94.4 euros in 2017, according to a survey by the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE).

“The Easter holiday period is very important for commerce, because Easter is a major festival for Greeks and because of the Easter bonus paid to employees in the private sector,” ESEE’s President George Karanikas said.

“The cost of the Easter meal this year is estimated to be the same as last year. Although we have seen increases in the prices of fruits and vegetables due to climate conditions, the small demand for meat has kept the total low,” he said.

The typical traditional Easter lunch for Greek Orthodox Christians includes lamb or goat, roasted on a spit in the countryside, eggs painted red which are cracked while relatives and friends are exchanging wishes, various cheeses, desserts, vegetables, fruits, wine and soft drinks.

People at Athens’ central market “Varvakeios” on Wednesday were searching for good prices and left with small quantities compared to the pre-crisis years.

“Today some payments were made, pensions mainly, and life is gradually returning to the market. The only alternative is to reduce the quantity. The situation is very tight, very tight. You will hardly see someone carrying an entire lamb on his shoulders,” the market’s President Kleanthis Tsironis, said.

The price of lamb is at least one euro lower than last year (5-6 euros per kilo), but consumer’s income has decreased dramatically after years of austerity.

People cannot easily spend 100 euros to cook kokoretsi, one of Easter Sunday’s top dishes, which is made with lamb or goat intestines wrapped around kidneys, hearts, lungs which are also roasted on a spit, he said.

“Half a lamb is enough for us. I will get the same things I buy every year. Nothing has changed for us,” Maria, one of the clients at the market said.

“(It is) the same, if not worse. When you do not have money, what can you get with a monthly pension of 700 euros and 5 children? It will be about the same, but taxes have increased,” Aggelos Moschopoulos, another customer, added.