After two years of lockdown, Easter 2022 is the perfect occasion for reconnecting with Greece’s traditional spirit. Lamb on the spit, folk music, free-flowing wine and plenty of good “parea” and “kefi” should do the trick. Add to that a beautiful location with interesting Easter traditions and you have yourself a wonderful trip to look forward to!
Here we take a look at some of the best Easter holiday destinations around the country that you really shouldn’t miss!
Greece’s holiest island, where St John the Evangelist wrote The Apocalypse, is especially ideal at Easter for fans of Greek Orthodoxy. In the picturesque Chora you can see the local re-enactments of the Last Supper and Washing of the Disciples’ Feet; during the liturgy, a priest from the monastery of St John the Theologian, who re-enacts the role of Jesus, disperses water droplets on the legs of two monks, representing Christ’s disciples, after which there is a procession through the town. On Easter Sunday on the Dodecanese Island, it’s well worth attending the atmospherically rich Second Resurrection church service, during which the gospel is read in seven languages.
Leonidio, a seaside town in the eastern Peloponnese, carries out the unusual tradition of releasing hundreds of balloons into the sky at midnight on Holy Saturday, as soon as the priest chants ‘Christ has risen’ (Christos Anesti). The tradition, which began in the late 19th century, is vibrant and colourful, offering a unique experience that even schoolchildren are involved in preparing from the start of the year. The town’s Epitaphios (the funeral bier of Christ, containing a large icon depicting the burial of Christ and heavily decorated with flowers) processions are also very scenic, as locals decorate streets with thousands of bitter oranges (between 2-3,000) that have been hollowed out and lit from the inside with candles. On Easter Sunday Leonidio holds the Feast of Love ceremony in its main square with Tsakonian dances and more balloons released into the sky.
Also in the Peloponnese is the magical seafront fortified town of Monemvasia, where on Good Friday the epitaphios procession passes through the medieval cobblestone roads past candle-lit chapels and houses, including the once governor’s mansion (during the Venetian era) Ardamis Guesthouse. Throughout the Easter period, in Monemvasia, you’ll hear the echoes of church liturgies echoing through the streets. On the afternoon of Easter Sunday, the town carries out a tradition of re-enacting the burning of Judas, usually in a captivating ambience.
The island of the Knights has an Easter tradition that involves tree stumps being gathered and stacked into a huge pile of wood that is set alight on Holy Saturday, a few hours ahead of the Insurrection ceremony. Called ‘Kalafunos’, this ritual represents the burning of Judas.
Not for the faint-hearted, Kalamata’s ‘Saitopolemos’, a ‘war’ of lit cardboard tubes filled with gunpowder- is famous Greece-wide for how loud it gets, how long it goes on, and how many people choose to participate despite annual accidents and even deaths. Thought to date back to the end of the Ottoman occupation and honouring Greeks who fought in the War of Independence, the event is certainly polemical. In Kalamata the burning of Judas tradition is actually a blowing up of Judas and takes place in the areas of Avramogiani and Rachi.
Famous for their clay pot-breaking tradition, Corfu’s locals annually enjoy (often joined by Greek and foreign tourists) throwing their water-filled vessels, decorated with red ribbons, off balconies onto the street, where they smash into smithereens. The custom, thought to have begun during the Venetian occupation, is followed by a musical procession by the Ionian island’s brass bands, with a performance of a musical piece titled ‘Fear Not, Greeks’.
One of the jewels of the Saronic Gulf, Hydra makes a great Easter getaway. The island enjoys a unique tradition of having the epitaph enter the sea on Good Friday in the fishing village of Kaminia, which is 10 minutes from the main port. This tradition is a way of blessing the waters and the seafarers. After the procession, people gather around to eat seafood in nearby tavernas and houses.