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Greek Easter is the most important religious event of the year. The preparations and traditions, which still play a significant role in contemporary Greek society, include traditional dishes and enormous feasts. Easter in Chios has a special place as it is the most famous among the Chios festivals and in Greece.
Greece observes Easter a few days later than other European nations because the Greek Church follows the Grecian calendar. There are a few rituals that everyone follows, despite the fact that each location may have its own unique local customs related to Easter.
The Greek Easter
Clean Monday—the first day of lent—marks the start of the Easter season. In the forty days leading up to Easter, known as lent, it is forbidden to consume any animal products.
The final week of Lent, or “Megali Evdomada” in Greek, falls between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. The traditional midnight dinner is being prepared on Saturday, the final day of lent.
People visit churches late on Saturday nights, turning the lights off at midnight. Following then, the bells announce Jesus’ resurrection, and people begin to applaud. Greeks bring candles to church as well.
People light their candles from the priest’s lit candle, which symbolizes Jesus’ unquenchable flame. The people bring the candles home to bless their homes and families.
Easter in Chios
Easter in Chios turns the island into the most favorite vacation location. In addition to the traditional Greek Easter customs, the island celebrates Easter in a distinctive and “explosive” manner. Who knows what that means to you! The infamous “Rouketopolemos” rocket war in Vrontados is the cause.
Rocket war or Rouketopolemos
The Rocket War takes place in the village of Vrontados, north of Chios town, on Good Saturday before Easter. Members of two competing churches, Agios Markos and Panagia Erythiani, stage a “rocket war” yearly.
During the celebrations of Greek Orthodox Easter in Chios, the two churches, which are located 400 meters apart, turn Vrontados into a battlefield. While the churches continue to celebrate mass, they launch tens of thousands of handmade rockets at one another.
Tens of thousands of rockets are launched, and practically immediately following Easter in Chios, rockets are being prepared for the rocket war the following year. The rockets are hardwood sticks filled with a gunpowder-based propellant combination. To ring the rival church’s bell is each side’s aim.
Each parish claims victory after the number of direct rocket impacts on each church bell the next day are tallied. Due to this disagreement, the two churches agreed to make amends the following year, guaranteeing the continuation of the custom.
Origin of the Chios RocketWar
The Chios rocket war’s beginnings are the subject of numerous urban legends. Although we are unsure of the answers to these questions, locals have a variety of theories regarding the how, when, and why it began.
Local history accounts claim that the celebration has been observed since the Ottoman era. It was purportedly carried out at the time using actual cannons until 1889, when Ottoman authorities forbade their use.
Another local myth holds that the Christians in the area were forbidden from celebrating Easter during Turkey’s occupation of Chios in the late 1800s. Two churches devised a scheme to prevent the Turkish authorities from interfering with the Easter liturgy. They used cannons and fireworks to simulate war.
Tens of thousands of fireworks rockets have been launched in the last few years, providing an unrivaled view the night before Easter in Chios. This unusual, if somewhat risky, spectacle draws both residents and visitors.
Locals’ tips for a memorable Easter in Chios
- Book your accommodation in Chios in advance, as availability will be difficult at the last moment.
- Rent a car for your transportation in Chios, as public transport will be limited during the public holidays.
- Get to Chios before Thursday and leave after Tuesday to enjoy the local celebration to the maximum.