Saturday, 31 March 2012

Easter traditions on the Greek islands

Organise a Greek islands getaway with a few friends or relatives, divide the costs, have fun, enjoy the Easter customs and forget the International Monetary Fund for a while.
This year, the year in which the economic - and not only – crisis, is perched firmly into our daily lives, enables us to celebrate Easter in the countryside, meet Greek traditions and customs and see friends and relatives.
So, leave the noisy cities for a while and runaway on some of the beautiful Greek Islands in order to celebrate a true Greek Easter.
There are countless choices to satisfy every taste: from the beautiful Kerkira (Corfu) and pious Patmos to Chios and Karpathos.

In addition to the religious traditions and pious atmosphere, Easter is a wonderful occasion to celebrate the coming of spring.
Out of the dozens of Greek islands, some are common tourist Easter destinations, while others are more relaxed and unusual. The Cyclades, Ionian Islands, Dodecanese, the islands of the North Aegean, Crete, Evia, are expecting you in order to spend a unique Easter close to nature, the sea and Greek traditions.
Many prefer to celebrate Easter on the Cyclades and the most popular destinations are Mykonos, Sifnos, Folegandros, Santorini, Syros etc.
The administrative capital of the Cycladic islands is Syros. With its two churches - the Orthodox and Catholic, Miaouli Central Square, the "Apollo" theatre and in general with its culture, Syros will offer a unique Easter.
In Mykonos women whitewash houses and knead bread in the shape of humans. On Good Friday people go around with Epitaph, and Holy Saturday Easter is celebrated in the small Paleokastro monastery.
On the island of Sifnos hosts prepare traditional "Easter birds" (Easter pretzels in the shape of various animals and birds), decorated with red eggs. The Easter lamb in Sifnos is roasted in a crock with dill and local red wine.
On the island of Santorini on Lazarus Saturday rural residents make "Lazarus" - a huge wooden cross covered with flowers, and on Holy Saturday after Easter all go home, carrying a red egg and eating the traditional soup with lamb haslets "sgardoumia".
On Sunday, in many villages of the island held is a "Jew People's Court" (human effigy made of fabric), which is condemned to death, hanged and burned by local residents.
Easter is very beautiful and impressive also on Folegandros, Amorgos, Koufonisia, Tinos, Serifos and other Cycladic islands, where local traditional customs are revived.
Ionian Islands
On top of the list of best Ionian Islands is Corfu (, which will welcome you with its natural beauty, fresh spring landscapes, traditions and customs that you will not see anywhere else. One example of such tradition is the custom of breaking clay jugs. There, Easter is a great holiday, on which coexisting in harmony are the Orthodox Christian faith, the island's patron Saint Spiridon and the Venetian influence and culture.
Easter on the island of Zakinthos, with its particular traditions, is known throughout Greece. On Good Friday at noon, many believers join the procession that goes around the town with the crucified Christ. In the church of St. Nicholas with the first stroke of the bells announcing the Resurrection, the Bishop releases white doves.
In Lefkada on the eve of Good Friday processions with Epitaph gather in the Venetian style central square, accompanied by the Orchestra of the city. On Saturday morning the local Orchestra plays festive tunes on the streets.
On Crete customs associated with Easter are many and besides the Greek general ones, here they have their own as well. On the morning of Holy Thursday women knead traditional Easter bagels. Men make a wooden dummy - "Judah" and go around with it to houses on the island and fight, and women give old clothes in order to dress the "dirty Judah." On Holy Saturday, when the priests announce the resurrection of Christ, locals set the dummy of Judah on fire, which burns to the sound of bursts.
Easter is especially beautiful on the Dodecanese. The Isle of Patmos, the island of Revelation, is one of the ideal places to celebrate Easter. Patmos (, where it is believed that John the Theologian wrote "Revelation", is at the height of its glory. On Palm Sunday the decoration of churches, the festive meals and religious traditions, immerse guests in the Easter atmosphere and the whole Holy Week is unique on the island, especially for those who attend the liturgy in the monastery, built in a cave that was Saint John’s place of exile.
On the island of Kalimnos, the island of sponge hunters, on Good Friday, Epitaph processions from the ten parishes gather in the central square and compete on whose decorations are the most beautiful. And on Sunday of Easter a war with a noisy fireworks and dynamite starts from the two hills that rise above the port.
Easter is impressive on the Island of Karpathos, and especially in Olimbos village, where women leave their traditional colourful garbs only during Holy Week, when they replace them with "mourning" clothes. In this village one can participate in one of the most exciting Epitaphs.
Easter is unique also on the islands of Kasos, Rhodes, Kastelorizo ​​and Astipalea.
Other Islands
Impressive and dignified are Easter celebrations on other Greek islands as well, such as the islands of the north Aegean Sea, the Saronic Gulf, Evia Island and the Sporades.
In Mirovolo of Chios and in particular in Vrontado, in Omiroupoli municipality, you can experience the unique custom "war with rockets" (, in which hundreds of homemade rockets are fired from two opposite sides (two parishes), and the view is spectacular. It is also worth it to visit a number of monasteries and churches on the island, which celebrate the bright Christian holidays with impressive customs.
On the island of Hydra Good Friday is celebrated in a special way, because the Epitaph enters the sea, in order to bless the water and sailors - testimony of the strong connection of the islanders with the sea. After that the Epitaph of the four parishes gather at the central port of the island.
Finally, Easter is unique also on the island of Skiathos, which respects the traditions of Mount Athos throughout the Holy week and Resurrection. The island is covered with a weeper throughout the Holy week and the Epitaph procession takes place on Saturday morning, following the schedule of Mount Athos.

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