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Hot-Air Balloons: A Unique Greek Easter Spectacle

Hot-Air Balloons
“hot-air balloon II” Credits: Spiros Vathis/CC BY-ND 2.0

A spectacular tradition that Greeks have adopted for Easter is sending glowing hot-air balloons into the night sky in celebration of Easter celebrating “Christos Anesti” (Christ Resurrected).

Greek Orthodox Easter, or Pascha, is the most important religious feast of the year, with customs and traditions that have been part of Christianity for two thousand years, making the feast a colorful one after the Lenten mourning for the Passion of Christ.

Many of the Greek Easter customs are particular to certain regions and might look peculiar to other parts of Greece, yet they are exciting and local people feel they are absolutely vital to the annual feast day.

At midnight on Easter Sunday, locals release hundreds of homemade hot-air balloons, creating a stunningly lovely spectacle. The balloons stay in the air for 30 or 40 minutes before they are lost in the sky or burn up.

This tradition runs strong in both Agios, Loutra Edipsou and Leonidio, Arcadia, where the hot-air balloons are prepared weeks before the “great” night, and almost every household builds its own.

The hot-air balloons are painstakingly constructed weeks before the great night, and almost every house builds its own balloon.

The technique to make the hot-air balloons is specific and an old tradition where reed and paper are used in various sizes, without however exceeding two meters. Big balloons require 32 to 36 papers, whereas the smaller ones need 8 to 16 or 18 papers. A cloth drenched in oil and petrol is used in order to “send” the balloons flying into the sky.

Hot-Air Balloons
“going up” Credits: Spiros Vathis/CC BY-ND 2.0

A Spectacular Sight in Easter Sunday in Agios, Loutra Edipsou

The flight of more glowing hot-air balloons on Easter Sunday in Agios, Loutra Edipsou is a beautiful sight to see and this year more than 500 people sent their balloon creations high into the sky.

The event always takes place on Easter Sunday at around 7:30 pm in Agios’ central square where people of all ages gather to celebrate the rising of Christ, this gives the always-spectacular sight a different kind of beauty, as the tiny lanterns are silhouetted against the glowing colors of the sunset.

“Night of the Hot-air Balloons”  in Leonidio, Arcadia

Another place in Greece in Leonidio, Arcadia, the tradition takes place that started in the late 19th century during the Resurrection night called the “Night of the hot-air balloons.”

This tradition dates back to local sailors who, as they traveled across the globe, were fascinated by how the Asians had the tradition of sending these small hot-air balloons into the skies in celebration.

When the sailors returned, they started the same tradition which they saw the Asians practicing, and with time, the tradition of the “Night of the hot-air balloons” was established and compounded with the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus on Saturday evening.

As soon as the first “Christos Anesti” (“Christ is Risen”) is heard, churches burn an effigy of Judas and release the hot-air balloons into the sky. The spectacular atmosphere is completed with fireworks, petards and many other colorful (and loud!) explosives.

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