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A church in Greece

3 Easter traditions observed in Greece

3 Easter traditions observed in Greece

It is argued that nobody celebrates Easter quite like the Greeks

Like many countries in the Balkans and the Middle East, Greece follows the Julian calendar and celebrates Easter on 2 May this year. Similarly, like most places with a predominantly Christian population, it attaches tremendous importance to this time of year.

However, while it may resemble other countries in these ways, it is unique in its celebrations. For this reason, many people claim that no other place in the world celebrates Easter like Greece. Looking at the various customs and traditions practiced by the Greeks, one can see that this is true.

Lambada: A special Easter candle

Around Easter, children in Greece receive gifts from their godparents. More specifically, they each receive their own "Lambada": a special, personalised candle that is lit during the midnight service of Easter Sunday.

The decorated candles are taken to mass on Holy Saturday, the night of the Resurrection. Once the clock strikes midnight, the church lights go off, the priest chants "Christos Anesti" (Christ Has Risen), and he passes the holy light to those closest to him.

From lambada to lambada, the light is then passed through the entire church as people greet one another and celebrate the joyous event.

Rouketopolemos: Rocket wars

While most of the Easter traditions and customs in Greece are related to religion and history, the rouketopolemos custom is somewhat different. Typically, Greeks celebrate the night of the Resurrection with the sounds of church bells and fireworks after the midnight service. However, two rival churches on the island of Chios take this tradition to a new level with what is known as rouketopolemos (rocket wars).

The Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani churches sit on opposite sides of one valley in Vrontados, Chios. For years, the two churches have waged 'wars' on Easter as they launch thousands of homemade rockets at each other across the valley. The goal of this 'war' is to hit the bell tower of the opposing church.

As you might expect, it is almost impossible to tell which side has hit the opposite first, as thousands of rockets and fireworks light up the night sky. For this reason, the tradition of the 'rocket war' is one that repeats itself every year as both sides always demand a rematch. Of course, it must be noted that although this is an astonishing and beautiful tradition, it is one that can be quite dangerous too.

Video of the "rocket wars" in Greece (RT on Youtube)

Tsougrisma: Egg tapping

Greeks celebrate Easter Sunday with a game that is fun for both adults and children. This game is known as tsougrisma (egg tapping) and it carries deep, symbolic meaning. Like many Christians around the world, the Greeks boil and dye eggs for Easter. However, instead of using different colours and creating intricate designs, they traditionally dye their eggs in a single colour: red.

Tsougrisma is a custom that is carried out using these red eggs. The game is played by two people and they must each choose their own egg. They must then tap it against their opponent’s without breaking it. The aim of the tsougrisma is to be the one who is left with an unbroken egg. It is believed that the person who has the strongest egg will be lucky and healthy throughout the year.

While this is a custom that is practiced in several other countries, it carries tremendous significance in Greece. Symbolically speaking, tsougrisma represents the resurrection of Christ. Taking this further, the red colour symbolises the blood that was shed on the cross while the eggshell represents the sealed tomb of Jesus. Therefore, the act of tapping eggs is not just a fun game that is played with friends and family but it is also one that carries religious meaning.

It is crucial to note that there are numerous other traditions observed by the Greeks around this time of year. However, this short list of customs is sufficient to show that the Easter festivities in Greece are unique, special, and exciting. If you ever get the opportunity to experience and witness this miraculous time in Greece, you must certainly do so.  

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