Easter destinations and traditions in Greece
In every corner of Greece people celebrate Easter in a unique way. Customs and traditions take place in every town in the biggest celebration of Christianity. Each region, however, has its own way of celebrating both the Passion and Resurrection.
In Arachova, the day of Passover starts with the procession of the image of St. George, which is accompanied by 500 people, all dressed in traditional costumes. On Sunday starts the «St. George Panigiraki», as the locals call it, which lasts until Wednesday and includes dances, songs and events, such as shot put, wrestling and lifting stones.
Nafpaktos, the evening of Good Friday, crowds of people, locals and visitors, followed by the procession of the Epitaph pass through the port. There are torches, specially mounted on plugs on the Castle. In the middle of the harbor entrance torches form a large cross, light up the harbor composing a spectacular image. The custom combines religious ritual with the heroic efforts of captain Anemoyiannis setting fire to the Turkish flagship in this area.
Leonidion the evening of the Resurrection fills the sky with bright balloons, which are raised by the faithful of each parish. The balloons started being manufactured in the village in the late 19th century and Leonidiotes continue to make them until today. The custom has its roots in local sailors who were impressed by a corresponding custom in Asia and then carried it home.
In Kalamata, revives a tradition that stems from the liberation war of 1821, the contest of «bouloukia» (groups of players) or otherwise saitopolemos. According to legend , the Messenians used shuttles full of explosives and intercepted the Turkish cavalry, startling the horses and proving once again that victory in a battle not only requires numerical superiority. Contestants in traditional costumes and armed with darts, ie cardboard tubes filled with gunpowder, indulge in saitopolemo.
In Kythnos on Easter Sunday in the square of the island boys and girls dressed in traditional costumes get on a swing. He or she will wag a bound before God and man for marriage. The evening of Holy Saturday is the custom «Forgive». All those who have dead relatives bring to the church baked food, bread and wine, which has been blessed by the priest and theb offer it to visitors and residents of the island.
In Syros, Catholics and Orthodox celebrate both days of Easter. The Epitaphs of Catholics in Ano Syros beginning of the church of St. George. In Ermoypoli the epitaph Catholic begins the church evangelists, epitaphs of Orthodox parishes of St. Nicholas, and the Assumption Cathedral of the Transfiguration.
In Paros, the procession of the Epitaph of Marpissas makes fifteen stops. At each stop a point of the mountain is illuminated and children dressed as Roman soldiers or disciples of Christ, represent scenes from the entrance to Jerusalem, the prayer on the Mount of Olives, the Martyrdom of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. After the end, the epitaph candles are not thrown away but they are used during storms, rains or shines, so that the light can get them through the storm.
On the island of the Apocalypse, Patmos the focus of ceremonies is the » basin». The Basin is adorned with brilliant Valles and variety of spring flowers. Maundy Thursday is the representation of the » Last Supper » of the Basin in the central square of Chora , where the Abbot washes 12 monks, as Jesus did with his disciples. On Easter Sunday, the Monastery of Patmos during the second resurrection, the Gospel of the Resurrection we can be heard in seven languages ( Italian, Russian, French, English, German, Serbian and ancient Homeric Greek).
In Chios, the most known rocketwar is an old Vrondadiancustom that has its roots in the Turkish occupation. From makeshift cannons, which were built by parishioners, today they make rockets, sparklers, made from nitro, sulfur and gunpowder. The preparation of the rocket begins immediately after Easter to be ready the next year. The quantities in recent years have reached a few thousand and the spectacle created by the rockets on the Vrontadou’s sky is impressive. Because accidents in recent years, the authorities have taken steps to protect bystanders and buildings, in order to save the custom.
In Corfu in the morning of Holy Saturday, after completion of the first sequence in Resurrection Cathedral the bells of the churches sound and from the windows of the houses fall in the thousands clay pots filled with water (called botides). This custom has its roots in a village of the Gospel «Thou Lord resurrect fiber crush them as utensils potter». In «Pinia» and below the metal cone, revives the custom of » tubs», called by the locals Mastela. In the middle of the sidewalk, they place a wooden barrel decorated with myrtle and Verde filled with water. People throw coins into the water and make a wish. When they hear the bells, everyone runs to get into the barrel. Anyone has a chance to get in, and the winner takes the money.
In the majority of villages in Crete, before the resurrection, all the children gather wood, and anything else that can burn and leave them to the courtyards of churches. On the eve of the Resurrection a mountain of wood is formed and they place on top a «Judah», a scarecrow made from an old suit and when the priest says «Christ is Risen» they set it on fire.
One of the customs that stands out in the villages of Rhodes is the burning of Judas. During the Holy Week, people in all churches gather large logs and wood where they burn the effigy of Judas as a punishment for his betrayal of Jesus. This custom is observed in almost all villages of Rhodes for decades.
An important difference compared with most parts of the country, is that in the Dodecanese on Easter Sunday the lamb, which is called “ovelias”, kokoretsi and other related specialties are not included in the menu. On Sunday they traditionally prepare the “Lampriati” which is lamb or goat in the oven stuffed with rice and offal, which in the villages of Rhodes is called “kapamas”. On Lazarus Saturday, in all houses the housewives make rolled cookies, “Lazarakia”, symbolizing thereby the body of Lazarus who was wrapped in a shroud.
On the island of Kalymnos, the Resurrection is very impressive, as people throw improvised dynamite that literally shakes the island.
In Kos children collect big keys, tie them with a rope and sprinkle with gunpowder and put the nail in the key hole. On the evening of the Resurrection day they bang it on the wall to detonate. Others cut long strips of paper, add the gunpowder and a wick roll them into cones, and set on fire when the priest says “Christos Anesti.” On the morning of Holy Saturday, the church is laid with small purple scented flowers of the mountain called “lampres”.
In Karpathos, the Easter traditions that stand out are in the village of Olympos, where residents follow the traditions. The only time they don’t wear their traditional colorful costumes, is during Holy Week, when they substitute them with “mournful” clothing. On Holy Saturday, women prepare the “lampriatiko ofto” for the next day, which is kid or lamb stuffed, mainly with rice. On Easter Monday, women go to the ovens to bake Easter pies with cheese and spices and then to the cemetery to whiten and to decorate with flowers the graves. On the third day of Easter the residents of Olympos decorate the icons of the church with colored scarves and they carry them in hands, heading back toward the cemetery.
– In Naxos the Easter table stands with the traditional “batoudo”, lamb stuffed with offal, vegetables, rice, eggs and cheese baked in the oven.
– In Amfiklia in Dadi they create “pits”, where many lambs are roasted together and offer eggs, wine, and desserts.
– In Kalymnos on Easter Monday they do the representation of the departure of the spongers. People gather at the port, the priests spinkle holy water on boats and people dance on traditional music.
-In Karpathos instead spit lamb on Easter Sunday they eat “Byzantium”. It is stuffed lamb with rice, oatmeal and offal.
-In Byzantine times they made bun with a red egg in the middle. The egg, from which come the birds, symbolizes life, while red is the color of life.
-The customs start on the Saturday of Lazarus, children go from door to door singing the “Lazarus” song and collect money and eggs. On Wednesday women wash and clean the house. On Holy Thursday they dye eggs. On Holy Thursday evening, after finishing the 12 Gospels, girls undertake to decorate the bier with garlands of white flowers, so that on Good Friday morning epitaph is ready to accept the “body of Christ” in the Deposition. The Good Friday is a day of mourning, people live with great solemnity the Divine Drama.