Easter in Greece is an unforgettable experience. For Greeks, the Greek Orthodox Easter is the most important holiday of the year. It commemorates the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ and celebrates the resurrection. Easter Celebrations in Greece are full of religious festivities as well as unique cultural traditions and special food.
Easter Celebrations in Greece
Greeks start with Easter preparations in the week before Easter or Holy Week. People will clean (and sometimes paint) their houses, decorate their streets and villages, bake an Easter bread and paint Easter eggs.
The Epitaphios plays an important role in Greek Orthodox Easter. This epitaph is an embroidered and floral decorated image of the burial of Christ. It is exhibited in the local church on Good Friday and carried around in a procession in villages and cities around Greece. People join the procession on its way through the streets and listen to chanters reciting funeral psalms.
On Holy Saturday eve, Greeks gather in their local church holding special Easter candles. These are lit by the priest with the Holy Light. The Resurrection of Christ is celebrated at midnight with the proclamation of Christós Anésti, drumbeats and fireworks. People take their candles home and eat a special Easter soup called maghiritsa, a tripe and herbs soup.
On Easter Sunday, the 40-day period of fasting comes to an end. On this day, Greeks prepare their Easter lamb on the spit. In some regions, the lamb is roasted in the oven. It is a day of food, music and festivities!
Some islands in Greece have their own Easter customs related to their history and characteristics. Here are 3 Greek destinations with unique Easter traditions.
Easter Celebrations on Corfu
The Ionian island of Corfu is famous for its Easter and is visited by many Greek and foreign tourists who want to experience the events.
One of the characteristics of the Corfiot Easter is the church music that can be heard everywhere around the island. There are also many concerts of classical music and opera. Unlike the rest of Greece, the Corfu Easter procession takes place on Holy Saturday morning. After the procession, the first resurrection takes place and beautifully decorated ceramic pots filled with water are thrown from the balconies in the old town of Corfu. A magnificent spectacle dating back to the Venetian era.
All over the town, orchestras are playing music and in the evening, shortly before midnight, a great firework is set off from the old fortifications of the city. Looking for accommodation in Corfu? Check out our post on Marbella Corfu: A luxury resort in Corfu
Easter on Paros
Paros island in the Cyclades has a different Easter tradition. In Paros, the story of Christ is recreated. On Good Friday special performances start in the village of Marpissa. During the procession, the entire village re-enacts the life of Jesus, his death and resurrection.
Children and youths, dressed in clothing from that era, set the stage at various points along the route of the Epitaph. They perform scenes from the Resurrection of Lazarus, the Last Supper, Prayers at Mount Olive, the Ascent to Cavalry and many other moments.
On the Saturday of Lazarus, Holy Saturday, people in Paros bake Lazarakia or Little Lazaruses. These are small, spiced sweets shaped like a man representing Lazarus.
Celebrating Easter on Hydra
In Hydra island, the sea plays an important role in the Easter celebrations. It is one of the most picturesque Easter customs in Greece: the immersion of the Epitaph in the sea. This happens on the evening of Good Friday at Kamini beach near Hydra town.
The Hydriots do this to sanctify the water and to guarantee sailors a safe journey. This was started by the sponge divers of Kaminia whose sponge boats departed after the Sunday of the Holy Cross. A spectacle that attracts many locals and foreigners to the port of Kamini. Another Easter tradition in Hydra is the symbolic Burning of Judas. A life-size doll, filled with straw is set on fire at the port of Hydra.
Also see our article on Best Restaurants on Hydra
Visit Santorini for Greek Orthodox Easter
Santorini is rather charming all year round, Easter included. Easter preparations in Santorini start early in the week as all the locals prepare for this important religious event by washing their homes and the exteriors.
One of the most impressive sites during Easter can be observed in Pyrgos, where the streets are decorated with cans and candles that line the pathways and rooftops of the entire village. The view from here is remarkable, overlooking the entire island and all the way to Oia. The whole of the island gathers here to witness this remarkable celebration.
Have you ever been to Greece during Greek Orthodox Easter and what did you like most?
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