Greek Easter: How Greece celebrated its greatest feast with pandemic restrictions

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Worshippers lined up at churches across Greece on Orthodox Holy Saturday as the government kept pandemic restrictions in place through the Easter holiday.

The Resurrection of Christ service was very different this year, as the night culminated at 9pm instead of the usual midnight, due to curfew measures.

Most services across the country were conducted outside, due to restrictions in the number of faithful allowed inside. Worshippers who were inside churches appear to have adhered to social distancing rules and mask-wearing.

But ultimately, ceremonies were relatively subdued. Even the Holy Light, coming from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was not greeted this year as a visiting head of state. It arrived at 7 pm in Athens by plane, and was distributed around the country with the help of 12 flights.

On Holy Sunday, Greeks across the country were seen enjoying a beautiful lamb on the spit, tsourekia and of course, cracking red eggs as the words ‘Xristos Anesti’ rang out from people’s homes and backyards.

Greek President and Prime Minister celebrate Easter:

Greek President, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, sent a message of hope from the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens on Saturday night where she attended the Resurrection service.

“Today we celebrate the victory of life over death, the move from the dark to the light, the spiritual change from fear and despair to hope. I wholeheartedly hope this Easter is the end of the pandemic, the healing of wounds on the body of humanity, and the final triumph of good, bathed in the light of love and solidarity,” Sakellaropoulou said.

For his part, Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, attended the service at the Church of Agios Dionysios, accompanied by his wife and children.

“This Easter, our thoughts turn to the people we lost to COVID and those still being tested in our hospitals. That our country is one of the lower ranked countries in Europe in deaths does not blunt that grief. It does portray the level of danger, the struggle of those on the front line of public health. The hope brought to all by the gift of vaccines,” Mitsotakis said in his Easter address, before stressing the minimal risks posed by vaccines.

“Easter in spring is an augur of a free summer. The Holy Fire becomes a sun of optimism about an end to this international pandemic. The message of the resurrection permeates current affairs, justifying its redemptory aspect. The days ahead can truly be better. So, the next months can be more productive. So the next years can be years of great prosperity for Greece and Greeks.”

Chios island marked Easter with spectacular rocket war:

The rocket war, one of the most beautiful, spectacular and yet dangerous Easter spectacles of Greece, was revived on Saturday night on the island of Chios in the Eastern Aegean Sea.

At midnight, in the village of Vrontado, two opposing parishes started firing thousands of homemade rockets at each other’s church, while the more pious among them attended the service inside.

The rocket war of Chios takes place on Holy Saturday at midnight. Credit: Dimitris Tachynakos / Wikimedia Commons – CC BY-SA 4.0.

The two rival parishes are Saint Mark and Panagia Erythiani (which means ”Red Madonna” in English).

Groups of locals from the area struck an agreement with the local authority in 2018, the church and the police to continue with the 200-year-old custom, albeit on a smaller scale.

This came after a few years of inactivity, since the event had been cancelled altogether.

READ MORE: The Vrontados Rocket War: Yiannis Apostolis on the unusual Greek Easter tradition.

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