Orthodox Easter is just a couple of weeks away and we wanted to guide you through the various Greek islands that celebrate Easter showcasing their local customs and traditions.
Easter is the celebration of spring, with several peculiarities. On the one hand, spring allows going on excursions, taking advantage of the holidays. On the other hand, at Easter, we have several different customs that enrich the celebrations. Combining excursions, customs, and traditions, Easter in several of the Greek islands has to offer something special, unique while helping to get away a little from the classic island model of – sun – summer – sea as we come in contact with the real culture of each destination. Whether Aegean, Ionian, or any of the other islands, the experience is thrilling.
Furthermore, our country has dozens of islands, some are touristy, for socialites and established Easter destinations, some more alternative and finally, others calmer and more unusual. The Cyclades, Ionian islands, Dodecanese, islands of the Northeast Aegean and the Saronic Gulf, Crete, and the Sporades, are waiting for you for a unique Easter close to nature, the sea, and the island traditions.
The islands of the Cyclades are preferred by many for the celebration of Easter, with the most popular destinations being Mykonos, Sifnos, Folegandros, Santorini, and Syros.
The capital of the Cyclades, Syros, with the orthodox and the catholic church dominating on two hills of Ermoupolis, with the central square Miaouli, the theater of Apollo, and its culture, can be proud of a unique Easter. With the orthodox and the catholic epitaph meeting in Miaouli Square. They hold prayers there. In the orthodox church of the Resurrection, on the hill Vrontado of Ermoupolis, the First Resurrection, on the morning of Holy Saturday, is accompanied by the loud banging of the stalls.
In Mykonos, women make “Lazarakia” – breads in the shape of people. On Good Friday the procession of the Epitaph takes place in Matogianni and on Holy Saturday the Resurrection takes place in the small monastery of Paleokastro in Ano Meria and the Diocese of Alevkandra.
In Sifnos is celebrated the custom of the resurrection “greeting” that lasts forty days, while on Holy Thursday the housewives prepare the traditional “birds of Lambri” (Easter rolls in various shapes of animals and birds) decorated with red eggs. Holy Saturday and the Second Resurrection, on Easter Sunday, are particularly soothing in the Monastery of Panagia Vrysiani, in Panagia Kochi in Artemonas, and other churches and chapels of the island. Finally, in Sifnos they roast the lamb in the “mastelo” (clay pot) with dill and local red wine.
In Santorini on Lazarus Saturday in the village squares the inhabitants set up Lazarus, a huge wooden cross wrapped in flowers, and on Holy Saturday after the Resurrection everyone, with a log and a red egg, goes to their homes to eat the “sgardoumia”. On Easter Sunday in several villages of the island the “Ovraios” (canvas of a man) takes place. The inhabitants sentence him to death, they hang and burn him with dynamites.
Other Cycladic Islands
Particularly beautiful is also Easter in Folegandros, Amorgos, Koufonisia, Tinos, Serifos, and all the Cyclades, where traditions and customs are revived and the Passion and Resurrection of Christ are celebrated with special splendor.
From the Ionian Islands, Corfu has the lead, which offers an all-night atmosphere, spring landscape, and natural beauties, customs, and traditions that we do not find anywhere else, like the one with the jugs. There, Easter is a great holiday in which the Orthodox Christian faith and the catalytic presence of the patron saint of the island, St. Spyridon, the Venetian influences, and the local culture coexist harmoniously, in a beautiful setting of unique beauty and mysticism.
The Zakynthian Easter with its peculiar customs, is special in all of Greece. At noon on Good Friday, a large number of believers participate in the procession of the Crucified One that crosses the entire city. In the Metropolitan Church of Agios Nikolaos ton Xenon, the procession of the Epitaph, according to an old local custom, takes place in the early morning hours of Holy Saturday. Moreover, with the first ringing of the resurrection bell, the Despot sets white doves free.
In Lefkada, on Good Friday night, the epitaphs of the parishes end up in the traditional, Venetian style, central square, accompanied by the Philharmonic. In addition, on Holy Saturday morning, the Philharmonic plays in the streets of the city.
In Crete, the customs of the Holy Week are many and beyond the known ones that apply throughout Greece. From the morning of Holy Thursday, the women knead the kalitsouni and the lambrokouloures. Furthermore, on Holy Week, the men make a human figure out of wood, the “Judas”. Firstly, they walk him around in all the houses of the village and beat him! Secondly, the women give all the old clothes they have to dress him. Finally, on Holy Saturday, they place the statue of Judas on the ravine with the woods. Additinally, on the night of Christ’s Resurrection, the girls set fire to Judas. He burns with the accompaniment of balloons.
Easter is special in the Dodecanese. The island of Apocalypse is one of the most ideal destinations for celebrating Easter. Patmos, where the evangelist John wrote the book of Revelation, has its day of honor. From Palm Sunday, the decoration of the churches, the festive table, and the religious traditions, create an Easter atmosphere. Additionally, the whole Holy Week is unique in the island. Specifically, for those who attend all the services in the Castle Monastery of Agios Ioannis as it is built in the cave that was the hermitage of the Evangelist.
In Kalymnos, the island of sponges, on Good Friday, the processions of the Epitaphs of the ten parishes gather in the central square, where they compete in the most beautiful decoration, while on Easter Sunday, on the two hills that rise above the port, a noisy war is proclaimed… A dynamite war!
Easter in Karpathos is also impressive, especially in the village of Olympus, where women do not part with their traditional colorful costumes except during Holy Week, where they are replaced by a “mourning” costume. In particular, in this village, one can participate in one of the most moving epitaphs.
Other Islands of the Dodecanese
Specifically, Easter in Kasos, Rhodes, Kastellorizo, and Astypalaia is also unique.
Additional Greek Islands
In the other island complexes of our country, they celebrate Easter with magnificence and enthusiasm. Specifically, the islands of the Northeast Aegean and the Saronic Gulf, and the Sporades.
In Myrovolo Chios and specifically in Vrontado of the Municipality of Homeroupolis, experience the unique custom of rocket war, during which hundreds of rockets are fired from the opposing sides (two parishes) offering one dazzling spectacle. Moreover, it is also worth visiting many of the Monasteries. For instance, the New Monastery on the night of the epitaph. Also, other churches of the island that celebrate the top moments of Orthodoxy with impressive customs.
In Hydra, Good Friday is celebrated in a special way, as the epitaph of the Kamini district enters the sea – testifying to the strong connection of the island’s inhabitants with the sea – to bless the waters and the sailors, creating an impressive atmosphere. Most importantly, the epitaphs of four parishes meet in the main port of the island.
Finally, Easter is unique in Skiathos, which follows the Mount Athos ritual throughout the Holy Week and the Resurrection. A mourning veil covers the island throughout the Holy Week. They perform the funeral procession in the early hours of Saturday.
Contact Greece Insiders and one of our expert Travel Designers will create a personalized Orthodox Easter itinerary just for you! Greek Easter this year falls on May 2nd. Therefore, it will harmoniously combine traditions and customs with the 3 S’s – sea, sun, sand.
Finally, to read a little more about Spring Destinations in Greece, here you may find our articles on the ‘Best Spring Destinations in Greece‘ and ‘The 6 Best Islands to Visit in April‘.
Feature Image Credits: Marco Verch Professional Photographer