Easter in Greece is a time of rich tradition and deep spirituality, celebrated with great fervor and joy. From the solemn ceremonies of Holy Friday to the jubilant feasts of Easter Sunday, the holiday is a unique and unforgettable experience. Visitors to Greece during this time will be immersed in a vibrant and colorful celebration of faith, community, and culture. In this blog, we take you on a journey to different Greek islands as we explore their unique Easter traditions and rituals.
The Easter festivities on Spetses provide visitors with the deeply religious aspect of the holiday and the refreshing sensations of spring. On the Saturday preceding Holy Week, local children sing and carry baskets decorated with flowers, filled with traditional biscuits known as “lazarakia”. During Great Friday, funeral biers adorned with hundreds of fresh flowers leave the island’s various parishes and converge in Poseidonion Square. At midnight on Easter Saturday, fireworks from all parishes light up the sky, and the streets fill with people until the early morning hours. In the parish of Ascension, a boat is burned in the temple’s courtyard, and on Easter Sunday afternoon, the “Burning of Judas” takes place in the square at Kounoupitsa.
Hydra Island is renowned for its exceptional Easter celebrations, which draw crowds during Holy Week to experience the holiday’s unique festivities. The most famous event is the Great Friday procession of the epitaphios, a flower-adorned bier of Christ, carried by the town’s young men through the fishing village of Kamini, down the coast, and into the sea. The Sea Epitaph at Kaminia is the island’s most impressive Easter tradition, where the procession concludes in the sea after winding through the cobblestone alleys. After the traditional Easter meal, witness the burning of an effigy of Judas at the harbour, accompanied by colourful fireworks. The custom is repeated yearly and guarantees safe journeys for sailors by sanctifying the water.
Orthodox Easter in Santorini offers an unforgettable celebration with local customs and warm hospitality. The island is known for the illuminated Pyrgos village on Good Friday, where lanterns and candles decorate the castle, rooftops, and paths. Housewives sprinkle rosewater or perfume on the epitaphios, and the village resembles a bright ship or castle from afar. Akrotiri also observes a similar tradition. The Holy Saturday Resurrection service at the Profiti Ilia monastery is recommended between 21:00 and 22:00, but firecrackers and fireworks are not allowed. Santorini’s Easter offers a breathtaking sight with candles and fires in cans placed along the streets and rooftops, creating a spectacular atmosphere.
In Ermoupoli, the cultured town that is the capital of the Cyclades, Catholics and Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter side-by-side, in a show of unity and mutual respect. Witness the Great Friday procession at the Monastery of Aghia Varvara near Kini, where the Epitaphios emerges earlier and takes paths through the countryside. Alternatively, join the Orthodox Epitaphios processions at the main square in Ermoupoli. On Holy Saturday, ascend the hill to the church of Anastasis tou Christou for a breathtaking view of Ermoupoli and its fireworks. Aghios Georgios in Ano Syros is an option for those preferring Catholic churches. Observe the Burning of Judas on Easter Sunday at the Church of the Koimiseos tis Theotokou, where the Gospel is read in as many languages as possible. Syros has stunning Orthodox and Catholic churches, creating an extraordinary Easter experience. The illuminated homes of Ermoupoli, styled after the 19th century, add to the holiday’s ambiance.
One of the best times to visit Mykonos Island is during Easter, particularly if it falls in late spring near the May Day holiday. The island is lush and fragrant during this time, just before the dry summer season. While occasional rainfall is common during Great Friday services, the island offers a mix of solemn Christian Easter rituals and a lively atmosphere. Holy Week services at Paleokastro monastery and Alefkantra Cathedral are top choices, and visitors can witness the Epitaph procession on the streets of Matogiannia in Hora. The burning of Judas takes place at the Hora cathedral on Easter, followed by the traditional meal. Reservations for dinner and lunch are recommended as the island attracts many visitors & celebrities during this period.
The celebration of Easter on the island of Patmos is a unique and unforgettable experience due to the Holy Monastery of St. John Theologian in Chora, a reference point for all of Greece and Orthodox Christianity. On Easter Saturday, visitors can watch the resurrection service at the Agios Ioannis monastery and the Immaculate Conception convent. On Easter Sunday, the Second Resurrection occurs at the monastery of St. John, where the uplifting gospel is read in several languages. Housewives are sprinkled with rosewater during the Epitaph procession, while the Vespers of Love on Easter features the Resurrection Gospel being read in seven languages. The Holy Week services are held in the Agios Ioannis chapel, with the most solemn resurrection service being held at the courtyard of the women’s monastery of Evangelismos. Visiting Patmos is a must to experience Easter in all its grandeur.
Easter in Corfu is a unique experience where the Orthodox Christian faith, pagan customs, and Venetian legacy converge harmoniously. The island’s 18 philharmonic bands, firing of the castle’s cannons, and locals maintaining traditions create a joyous celebration. The most impressive tradition is the throwing of clay jugs filled with water, called “botides,” from windows and balconies on the morning of Holy Saturday, accompanied by the sound of cannons. The town’s narrow streets, cafes, and squares such as Liston and Spianada provide a delightful spring ambience. Corfu’s Easter offers a grand festival where different elements come together, including Saint Spiridon’s strong presence, Corfiot humor, and music from philharmonic bands. This celebration is a must-see event for those visiting the island for the first time.
The medieval ambience of Rhodes provides the perfect setting for Easter, with its solemn processions and fascinating traditions. Among the most mystical processions is the solemn Epitaph of Agios Fanourios, winding through the narrow alleys of the medieval town on Great Friday. Another unique procession is that of the Epitaph of Panagia Katholiki in Kremasti. The Agios Isidoros, in the Attaviron municipality, has an interesting tradition called “vournon,” which involves the village’s single men performing tasks to prepare for Easter Monday, where they will be judged by a court they appointed on Holy Saturday. Those who fail to follow the rules face a fine or the vourna, which entails being pushed into a water trough. If you’re visiting the island for the first time, we highly recommend walking through the entire medieval town of Rhodes, exploring its alleys, the palace of the Grand Master of the Knights, and the moats. The magical atmosphere is not to be missed.