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Chios, the fifth-largest Greek island, is a hidden gem in the Aegean. The island is known for its fantastic native goods like mastic, as well as its rich history, solid naval heritage, and great ancient and medieval sites. Chios festivals are unique cultural events worth your time and will make your stay memorable.
New Year’s Eve Model Ships
Chios, an island with a long maritime history, holds a unique celebration to remember its sailors and the Greek armed services. So a maritime-inspired celebration couldn’t miss from the Chios festivals. Children collaborate in groups throughout the Christmas break to construct model ships, often out of wood. This custom was instituted to mark the Greek navy’s arrival on the island when the island was freed from Ottoman rule.
They begin construction on the boat months before New Year’s Eve. Along with building the ships, the kids also write poems and carols with wishes for sailors. Each team comprises the crew, and the captain displays their boat and performs the songs.
On New Year’s Eve, they perform Christmas carols and display the wooden boats as they go door-to-door in their neighborhood. Children’s groups from many areas come together in the center square to celebrate with their ships, and the best boat is given a prize.
The Vrontados Rocket War
The “Rouketopolemos,” also known as the Rocket War, is one of the most intriguing and distinctive Chios festivals. In the village of Vrontados, which is located to the north of Chios town, it happens on Good Saturday’s Eve before Easter.
Members of two competing churches, Agios Markos and Panagia Erythiani, both situated across a tiny valley in Vrontados, engage in an annual “rocket war” during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations. While services are taking place in the churches, they launch tens of thousands of handmade rockets at one another.
The night before Easter becomes beautiful thanks to the thousands of fireworks rockets shot in recent years. To ring the rival church’s bell is each side’s aim. According to reports, the holiday has been observed since the Ottoman era. Local legend holds that it was once conducted using actual cannons until 1889, when Ottoman authorities forbade their usage.
The “Mostra” of Thymiana
The practice dates back to the Middle Ages when pirates pillaged the islands and stole the locals’ crops, making it an old custom.
The watchtower guards allegedly signaled pirates were nearing the coast during Carnival while the entire hamlet was enjoying itself. The village men got there right away and set up an ambush. After the pirates were routed, the villagers brought the captured individuals back to the community and held a celebration (the word “mostra” originates from the Italian word “mostrare”) while showcasing them.
Since that time, on the final Friday of the Triodion, the locals dress in period-appropriate women’s or men’s clothing and conceal their faces with homemade masks to symbolize this struggle and victory over the pirates. On Sunday, people congregate in the village’s main square to perform the traditional dance known as “talimi,” which depicts the gestures of a warrior engaged in combat with pirates.
After the dance, they sing the war chant while accompanied by musical instruments and move toward the main church of Agios Eustratios, where Chian banners with flags are draped on the balcony. This is one of our favorite Chios festivals.
Every Clean Monday, the tradition of Aga, one of the oldest Chios festivals, is performed in the main square of local villages (Mesta, Olympi, Lithi). It is a custom that dates back to the time of Ottoman administration when the Turkish Pasha in charge of the Mastichochoria inflicted harsh punishments. The “Agas” event is a mockery of the Ottoman judges who chastised the Chians and the springtime tours the Aga used to take around Mastichochoria.
On the morning of Clean Monday, a local dons Aga’s attire and, accompanied by his staff (police officers, prosecutors), enters the hamlet solemnly before taking a seat and judging the attendees. Teasing, satire, and humor are all present in the parody trial.
The Diplo dance in Volissos
As is customary, on the final Sunday of the Carnival, residents of the Volissos village assemble for the “Diplos,” a traditional dance that resembles a human “double chain.” They start singing in the village’s neighborhoods and eventually create a long chain in the central square. The locals organize a feast in the town square, serving souma and sweets to the attendees.
Traditional Chios Festivals
Every summer, the Chios festivals (panigiria) play a significant part in Chios’ cultural life, transforming the island into a colossal celebration, especially in August. The two main panigiri in Chios on the island are St. Markella’s Day on July 22 and the Feast of the Virgin Mary on August 15.