Easter in Greece, means lots of things, not only spiritually related. It relates with Spring and the nature coming out from the clothing of winter. It is vividly celebrated all over Greece, along with all countries where Greeks and Orthodox Christians reside.
After all Easter also means the celebration of life over death. What is more important than that? Pagan or not, that meaning alone means a lot for people all over the world.
Really important facts for Easter in Greece
- The end of the official fasting period that starts 40 days before the Resurrection Sunday.
- Easter is a mobile holiday. It never lands on the same date every year. It is celebrated at the first Sunday after the summer solstice full moon (calculated with the Gregorian calendar).
- Saturday night is a night were the custom directs eating a special soup made with the intestines of the lamb which will be roasted the next day.
- In Saturday night at the time where the Resurrection is announced a huge amounts of fireworks and firecrackers will take off.
- The Holy Light is given in the Saturday evening mass, which relates with the “actual” resurrection time.
- Sunday means eating almost all day long.
- In many main cities neighborhoods and almost in any villages huge amounts of smoke are seen as people make lamb on a spit.
- People exchange a specific set of wishes after Saturday night. They say “Christ is risen” and other person replies “Indeed he has risen”, which is a more like an affirmation.
- It is considered a family holiday. Many people see these days as an opportunity to reunite with parents, children. In villages huge gatherings are happening in many houses as many generations of families come together. Same happens around the world where Greeks keep this custom.
- Prior Easter Sunday, the whole week is considered a week of deep reflection; a week of self-realization.
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Two important things to know for Easter in Greece
Planning to be in Greece or you are invited to a Greek house where they keep the Easter customs? Keep in mind of these 2 things.
- You are given a red egg. Puzzled? Easter eggs are -traditionally- boiled eggs dyed with red color. People crack them competing on who has the strongest (hint: they use both ends). Have a look in this article too. The egg and cracking the egg, has a deeper meaning and not just that of food.
- The Epitaph experience. At Good Friday night, what happens is the circumnavigation the Epitaph. This -for deeply religious people- is a very dignified event, analogically important to the Saturday evening resurrection mass. An effigy of a tomb, which means to carry the body of Christ, is carried by 4 people followed by priests, through a village or through most of the neighborhoods in a place. People follow along in a long line, until the procession ends up to the starting point (the church).
Different customs for Easter in Greece
Of course customs differ in many places around Greece. There are some locations where Easter is celebrated a “bit more” vividly. Here are some locations that many times made their way into local or world news.
The fantastic Ionian island of Corfu has the custom of throwing clay pitchers on the streets from their balconies. This mostly happens in the town’s historic center. While they throw these ceramic pots (some of them are pretty big) they also yell the wish: Christ is risen.
The Philharmonic Band of Corfu is also seen all over the capital constantly playing music. Keep in mind that the Epitaph circumnavigation in Corfu takes place on Saturday morning, instead of Friday night.
Ermoupoli, Syros island
In Syros, both Orthodox and Catholics celebrate Easter in the same day. The Epitaph circumnavigation starts from 2 different churches (Catholic/Orthodox) and they meet in Miaouli square where they pray together. Young people tend to carry/hold sponges and spears as a symbol to the martyr of Christ.
Prygos at Santorini island
In this place in Santorini island, they light small fires along the path that leads at the top church of Pyrgos. From a distance it looks like the whole hill is on fire. This is a very spectacular site.
This is the island where the Book of Revelations was written. The religious factor in Patmos is of great importance and Easter here has huge importance. There is also the Monastery of Saint John and pilgrims flock from all over the world. Many take the path that runs through the capital so to see the castle/monastery and the cave of Saint John.
The island of Hydra is in 1 hour and 30 minutes distance, with a flying dolphin boat from the port of Piraeus in Athens. Here, the Epitaph enters the sea in order to bless the waters and the boats. This happens at the village of Kaminia.
In Kalymnos, not only firecrackers and fireworks take off. Young people ignite actual dynamite “contraptions” which make a deafening sound all over the island.
Chios is well known about its “rocket wars”. This happens in Vrontados village. Two competing parishes aim for each church bell-towers. Some attempts to ban this have taken place, not always with success.
Kalamata city, Messinia, Peloponnese
In a similar way, like in Chios, a rocket launching custom takes place. A group of people named “Saitologoi” (meaning the Rocket Masters), launch these all day long. The custom remains from the years where Greece was in war with Ottoman empire and this was used to frighten the enemy. The custom was kept along the Easter.
In general the usage of firecrackers and loud noise all over Greece during resurrection mass and Easter day has more meanings. It supposes to scare (or cast away) the angel of Death and also symbolizes the huge event of Christ resurrecting from death, which is a huge concept if you think about it.
Noise is used as an awakening event, like “something huge is happening right now”!
Of course it is magnificent to spend Easter time all over Greece, as celebrations give and take everywhere. Athens is also great during that time and if you plan to be in Athens do seek for the Epitaph circumnavigation in the area of Plaka (Athens center). The whole area is really picturesque which adds a lot to the event, with people holding lit candles and lanterns.
We have many memories from such Easters in Greece, where nature was spectacularly “dressed”. Depending on the time of year, Spring may be in its full bloom and this adds a lot.
If you can, book some days to experience Easter in Greece, this year. When you do make sure to be in Greece since Good Friday morning as many things are happening since after that day.
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