Easter is the most important celebration in Greece with a lot of special traditions. We have written articles about “How do Greeks celebrate Easter” and “Food and Traditions during Greek Easter”. However, from region to region, traditions can be a bit different.
A. Everywhere in Greece, you can find the typical Easter traditions, such as:
Red eggs: Greeks dye red eggs on the Thursday before Easter and they “crack” them after the Resurrection on Easter Saturday.
The person who successfully cracks the eggs of the other person is declared the winner and, it is said, will have good luck during the year.
The person who starts to crack the egg says: “ Christos Anesti (=Christ has risen)” and the other replies with “ Alithos Anesti” (=Truly, He has arisen).
Epitaphios: Greeks decorate the Epitaphios in the morning of Good Friday in the church and in the evening it is carried through the village or the city. During the procession of the Epitaphios, people sing hymns and carry candles.
Mageiritsa: after the Resurrection on Easter Saturday, it‘s time for dinner. A green soup made of lamb intestines, called mageiritsa, is waiting for you. Do not worry, it’s tastier than it sounds or looks like!
Easter lamb: on Easter Sunday, Greeks mostly eat lamb (or goat). Early in the morning, you can smell everywhere the roasted meat and from about 1 pm you gather with family, friends for the Easter lunch. On the menu, you will always find lamb or goat, together with salads and the necessary “mezedes” (appetizers).
B. 5 amazing places to spend a special Greek Easter
Apart from those widely known customs, some places also have something extra to offer:
Asini (village close to Nafplion)
The burn of Judas
A custom which survives through the centuries is the burning of Judas. On Holy Friday or on Saturday, a group of young people gathers and construct a straw effigy of Judas. As soon as it is ready, they put it on a trolley and take it around the village. On Sunday afternoon, they burn it.
Corfu and Lefkada (Ionian Islands)
On the islands of Corfu and Lefkada, the philharmonic orchestra accompanies some beautiful customs. On Easter Saturday, the orchestra plays happy rhythms, while the housewives get rid of all pottery, throwing it from their windows. The church bells ring and thousands of pots are being thrown on the roads making a lot of noise.
The night sky gets lit up with thousands of flashes/ rocket-war. A good reason for somebody to be in Chios during Easter is the rocket-war. A custom that lasts since the Turkish occupation and the local people love it a lot. The handmade rockets and the fireworks offer an impressive spectacle! In Vrontados there are 2 churches, Agios Marcos and Erithiani. In a very folkloristic manner, rockets are being fired at those churches by the two competing communities of the village. The preparation of the rockets begins after Easter, so as to be ready next year!
Hydra is about 2 hours by boat from Piraeus (Athens) and known for the picturesque island without cars or motorbikes, but many donkeys! From a very peaceful island in winter, it becomes a very cosmopolitan one during the Easter celebrations. In the evening of Good Friday, they do not only have the beautiful procession of the Epitaphios through the narrow streets, but also the “Sea Epitaph” of the parish of Agios Ioannis. After the procession arrives at the small port of Kaminia, the Epitaph is submerged in the sea to bless the waters and prayer is sung for the sponge divers and the sailors of the island. After the procession of the Epitaph, people gather to enjoy fresh seafood in the local taverns.
At only 2 hours by car from Athens, it is a very popular destination for Athenians to celebrate Easter. Nafplion has a special atmosphere throughout the entire holy week. On Good Friday, follow the procession of the Epitaph of the Virgin, in a scenic route through the narrow streets and steps, and then meet all 4 Epitaphs of the various churches on Syntagma Square in the historic city center, accompanied by the choirs and the Philharmonic Orchestra. Here you can watch a small part of the procession in Nafplion:
Special opportunity: If you would like to experience the Easter traditions, while also learning Greek (all levels), you are welcome in the Greek Language and Culture Course in Nafplion, organized by Omilo!
We wish you a very nice Easter. Kalo Pascha!