Greek Easter Traditions
tradition (noun) a belief, principle, or way of acting that people in a particular society or group have continued to follow for a long time, or all of these beliefs, etc. in a particular society or group
Greece is blessed with rich, colourful and symbolic Easter traditions, that have been followed faithfully for many centuries. Our country has a unique way of blending the significance of two separate events that relate to Easter: on the one hand, the suffering and martyrdom of Jesus Christ, and on the other, the joy of his resurrection. These important events have become entwined with the coming of spring – the season of hope and rebirth.
The “Night of the Hot-air Balloons” in Leonidio
In the picturesque region of Tsakonia in Peloponnese, on the night of the Resurrection, the skies fill out with the breath-taking sight of floating lanterns made of colourful reed paper, as Leonidio's five parishes hand out paper balloons to the devout when the first 'Christ is risen' is uttered. The phantasmagorical atmosphere is completed with fireworks and petards, giving a different kind of beauty, as the tiny lanterns are silhouetted against the glowing colors of the night sky. Typically, around 100 to 120 lanterns crowd the skies each year.
The tradition of “Botides” in Corfu
Corfiots mark Holy Saturday with a strange old custom referred to as the “botides” - where large clay jugs filled with water are thrown from the balconies of homes in the center of town, smashing into pieces onto the streets below as thousands gather around to watch. Visitors come from across the country and abroad to view the popular event. Islanders said they believe the custom helps ward off bad spirits, and spectators take pieces of the smashed pots home as good luck charms.
The “Black Aloni” dance in Chalkidiki
The ritual known as “Black Aloni” in the village of Ierissos goes back to the days of Turkish rule. Three days after Easter, the locals gather to relive the custom of “Toumavrou yiou t’ aloni”. The elderly people start dancing and then everyone is invited to join hands in a big circle extending for around 400 meters. The Easter songs are played throughout the day and this custom comes to an end with the “Kageleftos” Dance, which represents the slaughter of 400 locals by the Ottomans during the 1821 revolution. The dancers pass under an arch made of laurel leaves and the raised swords of two young men. The local traditional “zografitikos” coffee boiling in a large cauldron, the Greek sweet bread tsoureki, and red eggs complement the day. The dance is repeated in the afternoon in the central square of the village.
The maritime Epitaph in Hydra
One of the most beautiful Hydra customs is the immersion of the Epitaph in the sea, on Good Friday evening, on Kamini beach. On this particular day the Epitaph, after its wandering into the town followed by crowds of worshipers with candles, endsup in the water at the picturesque harbor, with young men and children lifting it firmly on their shoulders to sanctify the waters. It is believed, this custom helps sailors have safe journeys.