Easter is a religious festival in Christian tradition, it is also called resurrection Sunday. Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on this day and it is the most significant time in all Christian churches, especially the Greek Orthodox Church. The Greek people celebrate a Holy Week, which includes; Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday are public holidays. People get together on this occasion and follow many amazing food traditions throughout the world during Easter, but the festivities in Greece are something else.
Fireworks normally signal celebration in many parts of the world, it’s much the same in Greece around Easter time as well. However, there is something that you could not imagine, instead of just firing the rockets in the sky, they do so much more. Their Fireworks show, is where the Greeks actually participate in rocket wars, with different churches as the teams participating.
You might be asking, what does this entail? Well let me tell you, the Greek fireworks battles around Easter. These are normally done at a village named Voradados, located approximately 5km north of Chios Town. They are done before Easter, every year, the sky is normally lit up by thousands of fireworks, making it a truly breathtaking display. It’s a tradition known as Rouketoplemos is then carried out. This tradition involves different churches participating in what can simply be called a rocket war. Indeed, the rivals throw fireworks at each other right after the midnight service.
There are two rival churches in town which partake in this rocket war, launching thousands of domestically produced rockets across town. The aim of the battle is to hit the rival church’s tower with as many fireworks as possible. The rockets, or fireworks are made up of wooden sticks, with explosive mixture which contains gunpowder applied on the top of them. The fireworks are then launched from grooved platform, with the aim right across towards the other church’s tower. All of this is scheduled right before the Greek Orthodox Easter.
The competition takes place throughout the area, with parishioners from Aghios Markos and Panagia Ereithiani partaking in the competition. The aim of every single parish is to fire as many of the rockets as possible towards the towers of the other churches. The hits on the bell tower are counted the next morning to decide the winner. However each participating parish normally tries their best to claim victory, often resulting in a disagreement. This ends with all the parties agreeing to settle the dispute about who won and who lost the next year, meaning the rivalry carries on.
Keeping in mind the privacy of the residents, the buildings in the surrounding have to be covered. This is so that the people living in the nearby surroundings are safe and this game does not cause any sort of damage to someone’s health or wealth.
To add to its bizarreness, there happens to be no logical explanation for this game, but the Greeks state that this traditions holds importance because it goes back to Ottoman Era. People used real canons, before, but their use was banned by Ottoman authorities in 1889. The tradition still carries on and makes for a thrilling and quite amazing sight every single Easter.
Baking Tsoureki and dying of red eggs: People start preparing for holy weekend on Thursday evening; they bake delicious sweet bread called Tsoureki, they eat it on Easter day because the three braided bread has a significance that it represents the Holy Trinity, most of the people cut it into shapes of a cross. Along with that, they boil eggs and dye them with red color.
Church bells, Flags, Tombs of the Christ: There is a dark, gloomy atmosphere on Good Friday, church bells ring and the flags are raised high on the poles and in some villages, a grave that represents the tomb of Jesus is carried out in the streets. This is accompanied with the Greek style, a lot of eating, singling and loud noise.
Midnight church service and candles: On Saturday, late at night but before the midnight people march to the churches. It follows a festival of light, which is full of joy. The churches are dark and they ring out bells, this exhibits the resurrection of Jesus, and the people applaud and cheer, and shoot fireworks. Everyone lights their candle and take it back home, the priest lights up a candle which signifies the Jesus flame and everyone lights their candle from this one, then take it back home create a black cross on their house with that flame to bless themselves.
Red egg cracking: People go back to their homes and sit together as a family to share the festival dinner. First of all they start with cracking the red dyed eggs, which signifies Jesus blood; they choose the egg wisely, the one that seems the strongest of them all. The egg cracking tradition begins; one has to crack their egg on top of the others egg, while saying these words “Christ Anesti” (Christ has risen) and the others reply him with “Alithos Anesti” (i.e. indeed he did). Then they have winners and losers, like in every other game, the loser is the one with the cracked egg, and the winner is the one whose egg is un-cracked, and is said to have Good luck for the next one year.
Eating Magirista: This is the fifth tradition, where people eat the offal of the lamp before it is being roasted, along with some vegetables like lettuce, dill, onions etc. Eating the magirista symbolizes the end of 40 days fast Greek orthodox people have before this day, and they do this to show the mourning for the death of Jesus. They drink and eat till late hours, and only sleep for a short time so that they can get up to prepare Easter Sunday lunch.
Roasting the Lamb
The last day, that is Easter Sunday is another day to celebrate, families join each other to roast the lamb and enjoy eating it with potatoes, meat and lots of drinks.