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Chios Island Marked Easter With Spectacular Rocket War

Rocket war Chios
The rocket war of Chios takes place on Holy Saturday at midnight. Credit: Dimitris Tachynakos / Wikimedia Commons – CC BY-SA 4.0

The rocket war, one of the most beautiful, spectacular and yet dangerous Easter spectacles of Greece, revived on Saturday night on the island of Chios in the Eastern Aegean Sea.

However, this time, the rules of the worldwide famous tradition were slightly different to prevent the mass damages it used to cause in the past in the village of Vrontado.

Groups of locals from the area struck an agreement with the local authority in 2018, the church, and the police to continue with the 200-year-old custom, albeit on a smaller scale.

This came after a few years of inactivity since the event had been canceled altogether.

The custom of the Rocket War

The custom traditionally involves two opposing parishes of the village spending the evening just before Orthodox Easter Sunday firing thousands of homemade rockets at each other’s church — while the more pious among them attend a service inside.

The two rival parishes are Saint Mark and Panagia Erythiani (which means ”Red Madonna” in English).

These two beautiful churches have been built on two hilltops about 400 meters from each other.

Traditionally, the objective is to hit the bell tower of the church on the other side. The rockets are wooden sticks loaded with an explosive mixture containing gunpowder and launched from grooved platforms.

The church buildings themselves and the nearby buildings have to be extensively boarded up and protected with metal sheets and mesh for the occasion.

Many locals have been unhappy at the explosive nature of the custom, expressing their dissatisfaction with the aftermath of the custom on every occasion.

On the other hand, of course, this custom has made their village known to the entire world, bringing tourists and much-needed revenue to their local economy.

Following years of cancellations due to heavy objections from nearby residents, the tradition revived in 2018 with a maximum of 10,000 rockets, which were used and the distance between the rival launching pads became bigger. Also, a verbal agreement was reached so that the participants to the tratidion would have to do everything they could not to target the properties that lie in between the two Christian parishes.

The new rules of 2021

However, this year, the custom had a small twist in order to protect both those attending and, of course, the churches themselves and the nearby properties.

Instead of aiming at each other’s bell towers, the participants were firing their ”rockets” at a higher altitude, in order to avoid unnecessary dangers.

As soon as the bells rang at midnight marking Jesus’ resurrection, hundreds of rockets created the spectacular spectacle in the sky of Chios.

Greek Reporter traveled to Chios in order to record every step of this controversial yet splendid Orthodox Easter custom that has attracted so many people from around Greece and abroad:


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