The Most Impressive Greek Easter Traditions
A voyage of discovery around Greece and its Easter traditions
Easter is the most important date in the Greek Orthodox calendar. A Magic Cabinet loves discovering local traditions so here are our favourites:
The “wash basin” custom in Patmos
The custom of the “wash basin” takes place on Xanthou square on the island of Patmos on Holy Thursday. It’s a reenactment of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet after the Last Supper. Local monks or priests play the roles of the disciples and Jesus is played by the prior of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian.
If you ever find yourself in Patmos, there is a “second resurrection” at the Monastery on Easter Sunday afternoon, where the gospel is read out in Italian, French, Russian, English, German, Serb and ancient Homeric Greek.
The war of fireworks in Chios
Chios is a well known Easter destination, with the most famous custom being the war of fireworks in the village of Vrontados. This “war” between the parishioners of the churches of St Mark and Virgin Mary Erithiani dates back to the time the island was under Turkish rule.
The aim is the dome and crest of St Mark on the one side and the Virgin Mary Erithiani clock on the other. The handmade firework rockets are set up on wooden stilts and the “warfare” begins when the air horn sounds. There is a short ceasefire to allow people into the churches but as soon as the words “Christ has risen” are spoken, the war starts again and night turns into day!
Chios is a well known Easter destination, with the most famous custom being the war of fireworks in the village of Vrontados. This “war” between the parishioners of the churches of St Mark and Virgin Mary Erithiani dates back to the time the island was under Turkish rule
The Corfu “botides”
Corfu brags about how impressive the local Easter traditions are, with the most famous being that of the botides (big clay pots). Immediately after the “Resurrection”, Corfians throw the botides from their balconies, which are all decorated for the occasion. The locals tie red ribbons to the clay pots as that’s the island’s official colour.
The throwing of the botides happens in unison with the sound of cannons from the fort and the horn sections of the town’s 18 philharmonic bands.
Saeta War in Kalamata
Every Easter Sunday in Kalamata, there is the tradition of the saeta war, which dates back to 1821. The competitors shoot saetes, which are homemade cardboard tubes filled with explosives. According to local history, these were originally used to halt the Turkish cavalry.
The Resurrection air balloons in Leonidio
Easter in Leonidio is a full on show. Locals make small, multicoloured air balloons which they release as soon as the priest says “Christ has risen”. This was originally started by seafarers who had witnessed something similar on their Asian travels.
Holy Friday in Santorini’s Pyrgos village
The Epitaphios procession in Pyrgos village is famous as you can see it from afar, due to the village being on a hill. The villagers fill every corner of the village with paraffin lamps, which are lit as the procession makes its way to the church. As the parishioners and visitors make their way up through the village’s tiny streets, the scene is made even more beautiful by all the handheld, lit candles.
Orthodox and Catholic Christians celebrate together in Syros
Syros is one of the few parts of the world where two different Christian communities celebrate Easter together, sending out a message of love and unity. The Epitaphios procession in Ano Syros is very special as it is organised by two Catholic parishes, the cathedral of St George and the church of St Sebastian.