Easter, or Pascha in Greek, is the greatest celebration of the Orthodox Church and is an opportunity for families to come together. Greeks follow the Holy Week rites and celebrate His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Have you ever wondered how Greek Easter is celebrated? Let’s look at 5 places to experience Greek Easter and some of the most famous customs and age-old traditions.
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Meteora is a place of breathtaking beauty located in central Greece. It features a huge complex consisting of sandstone rock pillars atop which famous monasteries have been built. This is one of the most important religious sites in Greece, and it has a long history spanning centuries.
Spending Greek Easter in Meteora is a unique experience not only because you have the opportunity to attend the religious rituals in this amazing location, but also because you can truly feel the awe and mystique of Greek Easter in this sacred place. The atmosphere at midnight on Easter Saturday when the resurrection is announced is something you can only understand by being there, and a visit during Easter is highly recommended.
Chios is a popular summer vacation destination because of its clear waters, picturesque villages, and tasty cuisine. However, this island is also famous for its Easter celebrations. At midnight before Easter Sunday, the night sky gets lit up by a “rocket war” (Rouketopolemos in Greek). Thousands of home-made rockets are launched from the space between two churches, Agios Markos and Erithiani, located 400 meters from each other. The objective is to hit the bell tower of the church on the other side. There is never an official winner, but the supporters of each camp are proud of their hits and of their preparations, which take the whole year.
The Rocket War dates back to Ottoman times. It is believed that at first it involved real cannons. When the use of cannons was prohibited in the 19th century, the churches began using homemade rockets. Find a safe place on the slope and enjoy the spectacular view of the “night fight”.
Kalamata is a beautiful city by the sea on the Peloponnese peninsula. Many people choose to spend their vacation in this city. It is popular all year round, but especially in the summer.
During Greek Easter, on Easter Sunday, Saitopolemos, a unique custom, takes place in the Kalamata football stadium. Groups of people wearing traditional costumes hold and light saites, long handmade cardboard tubes filled with powder. This tradition dates back to the Ottoman Period when the citizens of Kalamata used the saites to startle the horses of the Turkish army. In this way, they won an important battle.
Many people visit Kalamata to watch this extraordinary spectacle. During your visit to this special city, be sure to also enjoy the local cuisine at local taverns and walk or ride a bike along the sea.
© G Da / CC BY-SA 3.0
Corfu is a famous Greek Island in the Ionian Sea. It is one of the greenest islands in Greece, with many amazing beaches and clear waters. This island is famous because of its old town featuring Venetian houses, which is under the protection of UNESCO, but it is also known for its Easter celebrations.
On Corfu, Easter is a special experience, completely different from other regions in Greece. At 11 am on Holy Saturday, after the First Resurrection (which takes place in the Metropolitan church), an old tradition called Potides creates a unique atmosphere. People throw thousands of clay pots filled with water and laurel from their windows into the narrow streets below. All the while, local bands play traditional songs. The tradition is believed to fight evil spirits and to keep death at bay. If you want to experience this type of Easter, don’t forget to book your accommodation early because many tourists visit the island in this period.
Hydra is a small picturesque island that attracts many tourists during the summer months as well as on weekends, since it is very close to Athens. Easter on Hydra is full of remarkable events, and there are many traditions and customs to participate in during Holy Week and on Easter Sunday. One particularly special custom is the immersion of the Epitaph at Kamini beach on the evening of Good Friday. A procession carries the Epitaph from St. Ioannis parish church and when they arrive at a little cove on the beach, they enter the water. This act is believed to sanctify the sea, helping sailors return home safe from their journeys. The custom dates back to 1923 and has been repeated every Easter since then.
On Saturday at midnight, when the resurrection is announced, a visit to one of the small churches on the island is highly recommended. The atmosphere is quite spiritual and unique.
If you choose to spend Greek Easter in one of these five places, you are guaranteed a wonderful experience and will be immersed in Greek customs and traditions while enjoying the Greek landscape. During Greek Easter, you can also savor traditional Easter dishes. After midnight on Saturday, people eat magiritsa, a soup made of lamb offal and vegetables. On Easter Sunday, you can taste the famous roast lamb cooked on an open fire and then eat tsoureki, a delicious sweet bread. You are then sure to have a complete Greek Easter experience.
Don’t forget that the Orthodox Church uses the Gregorian calendar, which is different from the one used by other denominations. This means that this year, Easter will be celebrated on April 28th. Hurry up to book your tickets!