Islands for Greek Easter

Mykonos Islands for Greek Easter

Across Greece, Easter is the most important holiday of the year, but every island has its own quirks, local traditions and unique selling points for visitors.

1. Mykonos - Party like a local

Mykonos shutterstock 694711003 Islands for Greek Easter

What makes it Special

Easter is an opportunity to see a different side of this famous and cosmopolitan island. The hills are covered in green and wildflowers as the island awakes from its winter slumber and once begins to attract visitors looking to revel in its unique energy. As always, the island’s love of a great party is fully on display, but over Easter more traditional and intimate affairs replace the thumping parties of the summer months.

Local Easter Events and Traditions

On Good Friday the place to see the Epitaphios processions is outside the folk museum Lena’s House where women from the local Folklore Association offer homemade treats. During the processions, the cafe-bars turn down the music or switch it off entirely, but once they have ended the volume comes back up and bar-goers stay out enjoying themseleves until the early hours.

On Holy Saturday you can continue enjoying eating, drinking and dancing, or take a break to see the Anastasi at the pretty Monastery of Panaghia Tourliani in Ano Mera.

On Easter Sunday if you want to enjoy the best food the island has to offer, a reservation is a must in one of the island’s top restaurants such as M-eating or the meze restaurant Captain’s – Food for Sharing. Alternatively just let yourself be carried along by the mood of the moment.

2. Tinos - Where Orthodocy meets Catholocism

tinos Islands for Greek Easter

What Sets it Apart

Thanks to a period of Venetian rule, this beautiful Cycladic island, located only a few short hours from Athens, has both Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, which celebrate Easter side-by-side, making for a unique experience. With a long and proud history in marble crafts, the island also features some of the most unique villages in the Cyclades. This tradition has also led to the creation of a burgeoning contemporary art scene, with a particular emphasis on sculpture. 

Local Easter Events and Traditions

On Good Friday the Epitaphios processions from seven churches converge on the Chora waterfront. From there the Epitaphios from the church of Aghios Nikolaos (the patron saint of sailors) heads toward the beach where it is taken into the water to bless the island’s sailors. At the same time three large crosses are set alight, while fishing boats honor the procession with flares in a moving spectacle. 

At midnight on Holy Saturday, for a rousing (and deafening) celebration of Anastasi, with large crowds and extensive use of firecrackers, head to the Church of Panaghia Evangelistria in the main town, the most important church on the island. If you prefer a more intimate and low-key affair, opt for a church or monastery in one of the villages.

On Easter Sunday the tradition here is to cook lamb or goat in the oven, although some tavernas also prepare it spit-roasted. If you head to Pyrgos you will also witness the tradition of the trimbonia – specially constructed devices / weapons which are fired during the liturgies to ward off evil.

3. Patmos - The island of the Revelation

patmos Islands for Greek Easter

What Sets it Apart

This island in the Dodecanese has a particular significance for the Christian world given that it was here that St John penned the Book of Revelations. Today the wonderful Chora of the island is crowned by the Monastery of St John the Theologian, built only a short distance away from the Cave of the Apocalypse where St John is said to have been visited by the Holy Spirit.

Local Easter Events and Traditions

On Holy Thursday at 11.00 in the morning in Chora you can witness the reenactment of the Last Supper when the abbot of the Monastery of St John washes the feet of 12 clerics who play the role of the disciples.

Then on Good Friday you can observe a reenactment of the Descent from the Cross at the Monastery of St John and in the evening head down to the main square of Skala where a number of Epitaphios processions meet. In the Chora, a number of Epitaphios processions meet in the small square of Aghia Lesvia.

On Holy Saturday celebrate Anastasi in the Monastery of St John the Theologian. For a quieter affair opt for the women’s monastery of Zoodochou Pigis in Chora.

On Easter Sunday you can enjoy the traditional lamb on a spit together with local delicacies at the island’s tavernas. For the spiritually minded, head once again to the Monastery of St John for the Easter Sunday Vespers during which the Gospel according to John is read in seven languages, in order to proclaim the good news of the resurrection to all.

4. Chios – The island of the Rocket Wars

chios Islands for Greek Easter

What Sets it Apart

This large, cultured and fertile island in the Dodecanese is famed – aside from for its mastic (the aromatic resin produced from the lentisk tree) and exceptional citrus fruit – for the ‘rocket wars’ that play out on Holy Saturday between two hillside parishes and make for a truly awesome spectacle.

Local Easter Events and Traditions

The most impressive Epitaphios procession takes place in Nea Moni of Chios, a beautiful 11th-century monastery and UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the morning of Good Friday you can also follow the Epitaphios through the abandoned village of Kydianta, where the procession is led by the village’s former residents without a priest.

On the night of Holy Saturday the parishes of Aghios Markos and Panaghia Ereithiani in Vrontados fire their first ‘warning shots’ at each other over the valley that separates them from about 21.00. But it is only after the priest announces that ‘Christ is risen’ at midnight that hundreds of homemade rockets are fired from one church to the other in a ‘battle’ that sees the sky fill with streaks of flame. The locals say that the best places to view the spectacle is from the Aghios Makarios monastery, or from various points on Mount Aipos.

A fantastic Anastasi can also be had at the village of Mesta where an effigy of Judas is burned, and fireworks boom and crackle during a night-long festival of eating, drinking and dancing.

5. Kalymnos - Where the earth shakes

kalymnos Islands for Greek Easter

What sets it apart

The people of Kalymnos like things that go boom. A lot. At Easter this large island in the Dodecanese has a tradition of going beyond the conventional bangers and setting off actual dynamite on the hillsides. Its not for the faint of heart. Beyond that the island is also famed for its world-class rock climbing, and spring is the ideal season to do it.

Local Easter Events and Traditions

In the sizable main town of Kalymnos (Pothia) the entire population fills the streets on the evening of Good Friday. Ten Epitaphios processions (plus another three from the neighboring settlement of Chorio) move along the coastal road which is packed with people, and an informal competition as to which church has the most impressive funerary bier takes place.

In the morning of Holy Saturday locals begin preparing the island’s traditional Easter dish known as mououri. It consists of lamb or goat stuffed with rice, liver and tomatoes, cooked in a clay dish. This is placed in a wood-fired oven which is sealed with mud and stones and only opened the next day. But the groups that prepare the ovens will have already started the merrymaking.

At 12.00 in the afternoon the first Anastasi takes place, during which Judas effigies are burnt and the first sticks of dynamite are set off in the the main square, created a din together with the tolling of the church bells that rocks the whole island. The Anastasi at midnight is a slightly quieter affair, after which groups gather for the traditional hearty soups: ‘hoof and head’ soup, patsas or mageiritsa. 

On Easter Sunday the main event to enjoy is the traditional feast in the main square of Kalymnos Town. Local musicians and dance groups perform; here you will also see the Kalymnian ‘Mihanikos’ – a dance that represents the debilitating effects of decompression sickness that were experienced in the past by the island’s sponge divers.

But at 17.00 steel yourself as this is when the true shock-and-awe spectacle begins. 20-30 people climb to the top of the cliffs over Pothia and set off dynamite into the evening, after which more conventional fireworks follow.

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