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Easter in Greece is the biggest holiday of the year and is even more important than Christmas, with week  long celebrations and traditions. The Greek Orthodox Church plays a large role in the Greek Easter Paska or Pascha celebrations. Greek Orthodox Easter usually falls one week after the Western (Protestant, Catholic) Easter, while approximately once every four years it falls on the same date.

Greek Easter Traditions
There are many traditions in Greece revolving around Easter and the week leading up to Easter plays a major role in these. This week is known as Holy Week or «Megali Evdomada » (literally meaning the Big Week).

On Maundy Thursday the Service of the Holy Passion is held; the preparations for the celebration of the Resurrection also start on that day. Housewives traditionally prepare the Easter brioche «tsoureki» and dye eggs with special red dyes, a custom that symbolises the rebirth

lamb

lamb

of life and nature. On Good Friday, the sacred day of the culmination of the Passion of Christ with the Deposition from the cross and Christ’s burial, people decorate the Epitaph, as the tradition wants the Crown of Thorns of Jesus Christ to be covered with flowers. On this day of bereavement, the devout Christians are supposed not to eat anything. The Epitaph Mass takes place in the evening and then follows the circumambulation; people join the procession on its way through the streets of every single village and city listening to chanters reciting the funeral psalms in a mystic atmosphere of devout concentration.

On Easter Saturday morning, preparations start for the festive dinner of the Resurrection night and housewives cook «maghiritsa» (a tripe and herbs soup). Before midnight, people gather in church holding white candles, which they light with the «Holy Light». The Resurrection of Christ is celebrated at 12.00 sharp with drum beats and fireworks. When «Christós Anésti» (Christ has risen) is proclaimed against a background of loudly pealing bells, an impressive display of fireworks light up the night sky. People say the phrase «Christós Anésti» to one another. The response is «Alithós Anésti» (He has truly risen). Then they all gather around the festively laid table, they crack red eggs and feast on the traditional «maghiritsa». On Easter Sunday morning, as the 40-day period of fasting finally comes to an end, in many parts of the country lamb is prepared on the spit. In other regions, the meat for the Easter table – lamb or kid – is roasted in the oven. The atmosphere is festive- full of joy and excitement! The Easter tables are set and people merrily rejoice, eat and drink with their family until late at night.

Pasxa in Corfu

Pasxa in Corfu

Corfu at Easter
On Good Wednesday at 8.30 p.m. Corfiots fill up the Municipal Theatre to hear the Municipal Chorus singing ecclesiastical hymns of the Passion Week.
On Maundy Thursday in the Duomo, the Catholic Cathedral, 12 candles are lit and put out one at a time after the reading of each of the 12 Gospels.
On Good Friday young girls decorate the Epitaphs, whose circumambulation begins early in the afternoon accompanied by choruses and bands. The last Epitaph and most impressive one, the Epitaph of Corfu Cathedral, makes its appearance at 10.00 p.m. Listen to the music performed by the Philharmonics of Corfu, which gives an ecstatic dimension in this mournful night…

On Easter Saturday at 11.00 a.m., the first Resurrection is announced. Be prepared to experience a truly unique celebration: «Christós Anésti» is proclaimed against a background of loudly pealing bells and the joyful sounds of the bands as they parade through the streets. People hurl clay pots from windows and balconies which crash noisily on the streets below. At night, attend the Catholic Mass of the Resurrection in Duomo, or the Orthodox Resurrection Service at «Páno Platía» (Upper Square). Visitors will find themselves surrounded by thousands of lit candles: on balconies, on window sills or held by others attending the ceremony. The Resurrection of Christ is celebrated at 12.00 sharp with drum beats and fireworks.

Patmos at Easter
During the Passion Week on Patmos, the Island where the Apocalypse had been written, visitors are immersed in a deeply spiritual atmosphere. The presence of the Monastery of St. John brings about an uninterrupted observance and practice of the preserved Early Christian traditions like «The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet», the Reenactment of the Deposition from the Cross in the Monastery of St. John. Let us not forget the celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday and the highlight of Easter ceremonies, the «Liturgy of Love», held on Easter Sunday at 3 in the afternoon at the Monastery of St. John.

Chios at Easter
Chios Apart from being the Island of Aromas in the Northeastern Aegean, Chios is well known for the magnificent Easter festivities too. The scenic picture of ship owners’ mansions with exquisite flower garden designs, peaceful little ports with colourful boats, and picturesque windmills by the sea, dramatically changes after the Resurrection mass.
On the night of the Holy Saturday the villagers of Vrontados are ready to set the night on fire! A rocket war breaks out here, which dates back to the age of the Turkish occupation (15th-19th centuries) and turns this village into a virtual battlefield. The conflict is between the Panagoussians (which would be something like the «Madonnians»), i.e. the parishioners of Panayia in Erithiani (=Madonna in Erithiani), and the Aghiomarkoussians (Saintmarkians), i.e. the parishioners of Saint Mark, and both of theirsrockets aim at the dome and the emblem of the church of theirrivals.

pasxa in santorini

pasxa in santorini

The preparation for this bloodless «war» lasts for months and the improvised rockets, made of coal, sulphur and nitre, are put on wooden stands ready for the «gunners of Chios» to fire them. Teasing and challenging each other alternate with test shots until the sound of a horn signals «fire», late at night. And although «warriors» take a break to let people attend the liturgy of the Ressurection, they release the storm of fire right after midnight. The spring night sky lights upas tongues of fire and golden orbits of rockets speed to their targets in bangs and thunders. The dark of the night fuses into the red of the cross-fire, and thousands of locals and visitors marvel at this fascinating and unique-in-the-world sky spectacle.
The following day, the beautiful village of Vrontados finds again its peaceful self. The sticks left from the launched rockets around each church will be counted, and the winner will be finally announced. But whoever that is, the villagers bury the hatchet until next year’s Easter Saturday. After all, love and friendship always conquer all!

Skiathos at Easter
Spending Easter on Skiathos, the island of «the saint of the Greek literature» Alexandre Papadiamantis, is definitely a spiritual experience, as the locals observe the monastery ritual of Mount Athos, and live the Passion Week in devoutness and deep contemplation. The sound of the funeral bells ringing, and the scents of the nature in blossom blend harmoniously in sweet melancholy.

Crete at Easter
The Resurrection is quite spectacular in Hersonissos, where they light big fires on the beach, and especially by the lake of Agios Nikolaos. Thirty minutes before midnight the people of Agios Nikolaos start gathering around the lake of the town and they await for the priests to arrive a few minutes before midnight. At exactly 00:00 a big fire is lit on the lake and hundreds of fireworks explode in the sky of Agios Nikolaos.
The candles, that people carry with them to the church for the Resurrection of Christ, exist in a huge variety of colours and designs. Especially for children they are usually sold together with a toy, which increases their popularity and price. Do not be surprised to see candlesticks with robots for boys or Barbie-dolls for girls. Take a look at some handmade easter candlesticks.
No weddings are allowed during the Easter Lent. I don’t think this applies to civil weddings at the City Hall though.
The lamb of the Easter Sunday is a symbol for the sacrifice of Jesus, who was sacrificed like a lamb for the salvation of people.

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