In Vrontados a village on the Greek island of Chios residents organize a yearly fake rocket war, between two churches, Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani. TIME magazine journalist Olivier Laurent was impressed with the old Greek tradition, publishing an extensive article about what goes on in Chios during Easter.
“Each year, as Easter Sunday looms, the parishes of the Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani churches, which sit on opposite hills, unleash thousands of homemade firework rockets on each other, creating one of the world’s most surreal pyrotechnic displays,” wrote the TIME journalist, making reference to the historical facts behind the tradition and including several beautiful photographs in his article.
In the 19th century, when the Ottoman Turks occupied Chios, the local Greek Orthodox community was not allowed to celebrate Easter. However, Vrontados residents found a way to trick the Turks and celebrate Christ’s resurrection.
They set up a fake rocket war, using cannons and fireworks. The tradition still continues to this day, and it is one of the most “surreal” Easter celebrations across the globe.
Since then a lot has changed. The locals prepare the self-made rockets, which are being fired the night before Easter Sunday. The knowledge and the experience of this craft is given from father to son, as it is a dangerous task which demands caution. Everyone is pretty secretive about the preparations until the moment the rockets are fired up.
It all starts on Saturday evening. More than 100,000 rockets are fired on that day. At 11:30 p.m. the two sides call for a ceasefire, so people can attend mass, and the war restarts again after a few minutes. A second ceasefire is called after midnight. Both sides, aim to hit the other church’s bells, “the team with the larger number of hits wins the war, but since it’s always impossible to count all successful hits, both teams agree to a draw and a rematch is called for the following year,” noted the article.