Spending Easter time in Greece is probably as well advertised as summer holidays on a Aegean island. The colors and warm spring weather are already sweeping across the country, while people have begun preparing for the Holy Week and Easter Sunday. However, there is more to the Greek Easter than the much praised and impressive Vrontados rocket war in Chios or the smashing pots custom of Corfu. Some customs are weird and less known even among Greeks, but this only makes them more interesting and original.
In Heraklion, Crete, feasting does not merely include the living, but the dead as well. Cretans begin preparations from Holy Friday to dine on Easter Monday with their beloved deceased. This peculiar feast is not very different from any others found across the country except for the location, which is actually the local cemetery. On Easter Monday locals visit the graveyards bearing food and wine and the site has already been cleaned and beautified. Relatives and friends of the deceased go to the local cemeteries and have lunch including traditional dishes and sweets and exchange greetings. In this way, they believe they are honoring the memory of their dead and spreading the message of Christ’s Resurrection.
On the islands of Kythnos and Lesvos a swing is crafted in the main square on Easter Sunday, where girls and boys dressed in traditional costumes get on to sway. If someone sways the swing, then they pledge before God and men to marry the one on the swing.
On the island of Karpathos you will not taste the famous spit-roasted lamb on Easter Sunday, but rather the traditional Byzantine stuffed lamb with rice, oatmeal and offal. The delicious meal is prepared on Holy Saturday, is then baked in traditional wood ovens around the island, which are sealed with mud and clay. On Easter Sunday the oven is opened and the delicious meal is served as the main dish on the festive family table to celebrate the Resurrection.
In the northern towns of Orestiada and Didimoticho during the second Resurrection on the evening of Easter Sunday, the icon of St. Anastasia is auctioned. The one who wins the bid will hold the holy icon while walking around the city in order to bless and protect it from the evil.
On the island of Hydra, the Epitaph of the neighborhood of Kamini is blessed after entering the sea waters, while on the island of Zakynthos the priest and locals release white doves from the top of the church and their houses respectively after the first bell strikes on Holy Saturday.