Easter is one of the greatest religious holidays in Orthodoxy. It is celebrated uniquely in the whole of Greece where there are various folkways and customs which have a special place, in an atmosphere of a great devoutness. The most unusual customs in our country, during the holy days of Easter, are the following:
In Metres of Thrace the “burning of Judas” is an important custom. According to this custom, children, after they built a Judas effigy, they take it to house after house and ask for branches. These are going to be used on Good Friday after the Epitaph procession and children are going to set them on fire and “burn” Judas. A part of the ash is used to be taken and thrown on the tombs.
In Ierissos of Chalkidiki the custom “Tou mavrou niou t’aloni” (black lad’s threshing floor) on the hills above the town on the third day of Easter, gives a special colour to the Easter’s festivities.
The elderly start the dance and in the meantime the rest join in and dance and sing all the Easter’s songs and they come to an end with “Kagelefto” dance which is the representation of the massacre of 400 Ierissians by the Turkish, during the rebellion in 1821. The dance passes below an arch made of laurel where there are two young men who raise their swords.
The balloons’ custom is retained in the night of the Resurrection.
Five parishes’ children compete in successful “flights” of colourful bright balloons, which prepare weeks before Easter. For about half an hour after Paschal Greeting, the sky obtains extra stars.
In Kalamata revives a custom, which derives from the liberating battles in 1821, the “bouloukia” competition.
The competitors, wearing their traditional dress and being armed with saites, which are paper pipes full of gun powder, have a fight with saites inside Messiniakos pitch, with the participation of hundreds of locals and visitors.
Furthermore, in the night of the Holy Saturday the “syhorio” custom takes place, this means that all those who have dead relatives, bring in the church roast meat, wine and bread, which have been blessed by the priest and offer them to visitors and the island’s residents.
In Vrontero of Chios we have the well-known custom of “rocket fight”. This is a custom which have its roots in the Ottoman period.
The residents from the parishes of Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani, two churches placed opposite to each other, eject thousands of makeshift rockets aiming the steeple of the opponent church, creating a unique spectacle, in the night of the Holy Saturday.
The morning after, a count of the rockets which hit their aim, occurs, in order to pronounce a winner. A few days before, the churches’ buildings and neighboring houses, as, well, are covered with a metal protection grid.
In Kythnos, there is a special Easter custom, “the swing”. According to that, on Easter Sunday, in the village’s central square, they set a swing in which boys and girls swing by turns, dressed in traditional dresses.
According to the custom, if a boy swings a girl and vice versa, they commit to God and people, for marriage!
The costume revives in Lesvos, as well.
On Easter, the costume of the representation of the Passion of Christ takes place on the island, during the Epitaph procession in the mountainous villages of Marpissa, Marmara, Prodromo, Lefkes and Aspro Chorio.
As the Epitaph goes by the streets, it stops 15 times and live representation of the Passion of Christ is performed.
Children dressed as Roman soldiers or Christ’s disciples revive scenes by the Jerusalem entrance, the “Last Supper”, the martyrdom of crucifixion etc,
while in each of the stops, a location in the mountain is impressively lighten up. On Saturday night, the custom reaches its peak with the representation of the Resurrection into a dazzling atmosphere with thousands of candles and countless fireworks that light up the Aegean sky in a magical way.
In Karpathos, on Holy Saturday, instead of skewered lamb, they have the traditional Vyzanti, which is lamb filled with rice, barley and bowels.
It is roasted in a traditional Karpathian oven, which is sealed with mud and clay and on Easter day, they open it and celebrate with local wine and traditional dances.
In the Metropolitan Temple of Saint Nikolas of Strangers in Zakynthos, the Epitaph procession, according to the old local custom, takes place
in the first morning hours of Holy Saturday and when the sun rises, the Bishop declares the Resurrection.
With the first toll of the bell, the Bishop releases white pigeons from the steeple and the houses’ windows, as well.
Botides are those jugs with the fine mouth which, if you ever have spent your Easter holidays in Kerkyra, you definitely have seen them bursting in front of your feet on Holy Saturday morning.
It’s about the custom of the First Resurrection, in which the Kerkyreans fill their botides with water and throw them from the kantounia’s balconies.
A little earlier, in the church of Virgin Mary of Strangers, an artificial earthquake has occurred, as a reference to the earthquake which occurred, according to the Bible, in the entombment of Jesus, while in the meantime, the Kerkyrean philharmonics walk around the city playing cheerful marches.
In Ydra, they have a special custom on Good Friday. In Kamini district, the Epitaph enters the sea and its psalm is read.
The colourful fireworks that constantly light up the sky have a special place.
On Lazarus Saturday, on Kalymnos, people knead “Lazaruses”. This means that they bake a human effigy with hands, legs and head.