Every Easter, celebrants on Chios celebrate the Easter occasion by commencing the rocket war around the parishes of Panagia Erythiani and Agios Markos in the town of Vrontados. During the rocket war, the congregations of Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani churches launch thousands of fireworks with the aim of hitting the bell tower of the rival church.
The tradition is of questionable legality and has raised concerns about the safety of participants and onlookers. Nevertheless, it is welcomed by many as an exciting display of faith and pyrotechnics in equal measure and draws a significant number of tourists to the island at Easter every year.
The Chios rocket war tradition
Every year, during the Easter midnight liturgy, participants in the tradition take up their positions at the rival churches, about 400 meters apart, in Vrontados to take part in the explosive tradition.
It is believed that the custom is over 200 years old and began sometime during the Ottoman occupation. According to local tradition, the rocket war was originally conducted with canons but this practice was outlawed by the Ottomans in 1889.
The winner of the rocket war is supposedly determined by the number of direct hits landed on the belfry of each church. However, each parish invariably claims victory each year and the tradition, therefore, continues annually.
The church buildings themselves — and even nearby buildings — must be extensively boarded up and protected with metal sheets and mesh just for this occasion every Orthodox Easter.
The rockets are made by the locals prior to the event every year, with the process being handed down through the generations.
Broadcast this year
This year, the rocket war will be filmed live and broadcast at the iconic MSG Sphere in Las Vegas. The entertainment venue has a capacity of 17,500 spectators
The production company filming the event has dispatched 80 personnel to capture the rocket war on the island. They will create a virtual reality experience available to t spectators at the MSG Sphere, across the world, thousands of miles away from the rocket war taking place on Chios.
Several prominent local figures will attend the event in the town of Vrontados. Notis Mitarakis, the Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum and an MP for Chios, as well as MP Andreas Michaelides, and the Mayor of Chios Stamatis Karmantzis, will be present.
A parade of the “rocketers” will take place along the coastal area of the town before the rocket war itself commences.
Mastiha of Chios, Greece’s ‘White Gold’
Mastiha, often referred to as the “Tears of Chios” or the “White Gold of Greece,” is a product made exclusively on the Greek island of Chios. Since antiquity, this sticky resin, which seeps from the bark of mastic trees, has been harvested not only for its flavor but its therapeutic value, as well.
Although the mastic tree, also called “lentisk,” is native to many areas in the Mediterranean, its bark only “bleeds” mastic on the island of Chios, making it a truly unique and nearly miraculous product.