Easter in Attica
During Holy Week worshippers attend the Divine Liturgies and participate in the ecclesiastical rituals.
On Holy Thursday, women prepare and decorate red eggs in the morning and worshippers gather for the liturgy of the crucifixion in the evening.
On Good Friday, young girls decorate the Epitaph with flowers in the morning and the Divine Liturgy follows in the evening, with each parish organizing its own Epitaph procession for worshipers to attend.
The mood slowly shifts on Holy Saturday as the faithful prepare for the Resurrection. People gather at the church, with either simple white candles or decorated Easter candles, and listen to the liturgy of the Resurrection. At midnight, the church’s lights are turned off, symbolizing the passing of Christ into Hades.
As the priest chants the hymn “Come Receive the Light”, the crowd lights their candles with the Holy Light. The Greek traditional hymn “Christ Is Risen” follows and church-goers give each other “the kiss of love”, a traditional gesture of peace and goodwill.
Traditionally, in Attica Greece the younger people wait perched on nearby rooftops ready to light up the night with fireworks and firecrackers. When the celebration is ended, people carry the Holy Light to their homes to illuminate their families’ lives, often forming a cross with the candle’s flame at the front door of their houses. Holy Saturday also features a festive table set with red eggs and mageiritsa (a traditional Greek Easter soup with lamb giblets, egg, lemon sauce and herbs).
On Easter Sunday everybody is in festive mood. Family and friends celebrate with good food, dancing and, of course, wine! Any good Greek Easter meal includes roasted lamb or goat or lamb in the oven with potatoes, roasted lamb intestines, and traditional desserts, like custard filled pastry, donuts or baklava.
Easter in Aegina
Easter has many names in Greek, but they all refer to the age-old message of hope and victory of life over death, as well as the arrival of the light of spring after the darkness of winter. Life is renewed in homage to creation. The trees begin to bud and spread their branches, flowers spill over the fields and gardens in a scented sea of colour and the nightingales and rock thrush launch into their song of love.
In Aegina, Easter appears in all its finery as the sea quietens and the harbour fills with yachts and sailing boats moored alongside the local fishing boats. Fields and gardens are a burst of colour, as poppies, daisies, freesias and roses burst into bloom, while neighbourhoods are flooded with the aroma of baking Easter biscuits and sweet breads on Holy Thursday.
Throughout Holy Week, the ouzeries and tavernas along the waterfront, both in town and beyond, do a roaring trade in tasty Lenten dishes, vegetable specialities and live shellfish. By noon on Holy Friday, the decorated epitaphios has gone to the Agia Eirini cemetery and the heart-wrenching sound of people quietly singing the familiar mourning hymn over the graves of their loved ones can be heard.
In the evening, three funereal biers trying to outdo each other in floral decoration, one from each of Aegina’s main churches, begin their procession around the streets of the town. Eventually, they come together on the waterfront in front of the Town Hall among a throng of people holding candles.
The Resurrection at midnight of Holy Saturday is a time of joy and embracing. You can take part in the Easter experience either at a little out-of-the-way church or at one of the larger churches in the main town of Aegina, from where it is easy to carry on to one of the bars or music clubs for a drink afterward or dancing till dawn.
On Easter Sunday, no matter where you go, you will come across lambs and kokoretsi slowly turning over a spit as families and friends get together to clink their glasses, enjoy the feast and lead a dance or two.
For those looking for something a little different, there are two old customs revived every Easter in Aegina. One is the burning of Judas in the mountain village of Anitseo and other is the Easter dance, dedicated to the worship of youth and love, held in medieval Paleochora.
For more information about Easter in Aegina, click here.
Easter in Athens
Although the Greek countryside is undoubtedly the best place to celebrate a traditional Greek Easter, Athens also provides ample opportunities for a fun-filled holiday weekend.
Touring the town
Luckily for you, the city won’t be too crowded in the Easter holidays, so you’ll have the perfect opportunity to tour its archaeological sites. Start from the Korean market and make your way from Kerameikos to the Ancient Agora and the imposing Temple of Hephaestus. Then head towards the Roman Agora, stop at the Bath House of the Winds in Plaka.
Next mosey to the foot of the ever-impressive Parthenon or take a romantic stroll around the walls of the Acropolis. Conclude your walk in Athens at Dionysios Areopagitou pedestrian street. From there you can visit the Olympieion (the Columns of Zeus and the Gate of Hadrian) and of course the Acropolis Museum, located at 15 Dionisiou Areopagitou Street, Athens (for more information, please call 210 900 0900 or visit the website, www.acropolismuseum.gr).
The view from above
Make sure you set aside time for a visit to Lycabettus Hill by cable car (located on Ploutarchou Street in Kolonaki) or by private vehicle. The chapel of Agios Georgios, at the top of the Lycabettus Hill, is ideal for the Holy Saturday mass. Afterwards, have a coffee and relax as you soak up the sun and take in the sites of Athens.
Filopappos Hill, in the centre of Athens, presents the perfect place for an afternoon stroll. The verdant hill gives you a spectacular view of the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill.
You can also visit the Zappeion Estate and National Garden, right in the heart of Athens.
Easter weekend is the perfect time for a leisurely stroll through one of Athens’ idyllic parks. Get out and enjoy the sun at the Antonis Tritsis Environmental Awareness Park, Pedion tou Areos, Grove of Kaisariani and many more.
Or arrange a short getaway to Mount Parnitha, where you can enjoy nature’s beauty along with the delicious food served in the taverns that lie at the foot of the mountain.
By the waves…
If you prefer to be beside the seaside, head to Piraeus for a walk along the water and then to Mikrolimano, Pasalimani, Freatida or Piraïki for some fresh fish and seafood.
You can also take the Coastal Highway to Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Kavouri, Varkiza, Lagonisi and Sounio (where you can visit the spectacular Temple of Poseidon).
North-east of Athens you’ll find even more delightful destinations, like the seaside settlements of Rafina, Nea Makri and Marathon.
Attend the procession of the Epitaph and follow with post-procession festivities
If you are looking for a unique Easter celebration in Athens, check out the following churches:
• Metropolitan Cathedral in Monastiraki
• Church of Jesus Christ the Saviour in Plaka
• Agia Aikaterini in Plaka
• St. Demetrius the Bombardier
• Church of the Archangels
• Kapnikarea Chapel
• Kaisariani Monastery
• Penteli Monastery, where you can see the re-enactment of the Descent from the Cross on Holy Friday
• Syntagma Square, where all the Epitaphs from the surrounding churches meet for a communal liturgy at around 9.30pm on Good Friday
After the procession of the Epitaph
After mass on Good Friday, Athens’ ouzo and tsipouro bars quickly become crowded (we recommend making a reservation), as people come together to enjoy delicious snacks and fresh seafood. Join in the festivities at one of the traditional bars and taverns in Plaka, Monastiraki, Thiseio, Psyrri, Kaisariani, Piraeus, Piraïki and Mikrolimano.
Attend the Holy Saturday liturgy
Easter is the biggest event of the year in the Orthodox church. Celebrate Holy Saturday at one of the following churches:
• The Metochion of the Holy Sepulchre in Plaka (on Erechtheos and Prytaneiou streets)
• Kapnikarea Chapel on Ermou Street in the heart of Athens
• Agia Aikaterini and Agia Grigoroussa in Plaka
• Agia Eirini on Aiolou Street, features an exceptional choir
• Church of Jesus Christ the Saviour in Plaka on Kydathineon and Sotiros streets
• Agia Sofia Acropoleos on Areopagitou Street, with a view to the Acropolis
• Agios Georgios and Agios Isidoros on Lycabettus
• Agios Georgios Karytsis on Karytsi Square
• Agia Marina in Thiseio
• St. Demetrius the Bombardier on Filopappos Hill
• Agios Filippos in Monastiraki
• Agios Georgios Makrigiannis
Or consider trying a different kind of Holy Saturday liturgy at:
• The Anglican Church of Saint Paul on Filellinon Street
• The Russian church on Filellinon Street
• The Ethiopian church in the Pentagono neighbourhood, on 12 Mpochali Street
• The Armenian Christian Orthodox church at 10 Kriezi Street on Koumoundouros Square
The Pascal Feast
As with most Greek celebrations, no Easter is complete without a feast! On Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, all the major hotels in Athens organise delicious dinners and hearty buffet lunches, combining traditional and gourmet Easter flavours. In the traditional taverns of the historic centre, Plaka, Psyrri, Monastiraki and Thiseio, you can enjoy mageiritsa, lamb or goat in the oven with potatoes, and many other delectable Easter dishes.
Orthodox Easter and the Holy Light
The lighting of the candle with the Holy Light from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is a time-honoured tradition in the Orthodox church.
From Jerusalem to the Metochion of the Holy Sepulchre
The miracle of the descent of the Holy Light begins at noon in the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday. Everyone awaits the descent of the Holy Spirit, which spreads from the Church of the Resurrection to the Holy Tomb of the Patriarch, which holds 33 candles lit with the Holy Light. Then, the ambassadors of the Orthodox Churches light their vigil lamps and the transfer of the Holy Light around the world begins.
The Holy Light arrives in Athens by air in the afternoon of Holy Saturday. It is immediately transferred in the Metochion of the Holy Sepulchre, where worshippers anxiously await its arrival. From there, the Light is transferred to all the churches of Athens and then by air to the rest of the country.
The Red Eggs of Easter
In one of Greece’s most famous Easter traditions, the women of the house prepare and decorate red eggs, said to symbolise the blood of Jesus Christ, on Holy Thursday. After the Resurrection liturgy on Holy Saturday, friends and family enjoy Easter soup and then crack their red eggs.
Easter in Hydra
Easter in Hydra
Adorned with colorful flowers, Hydra warmly welcomes all visitors on Easter week. Only an hour and a half from Athens by boat, Hydra draws hundreds of visitor this every Easter to enjoy its rugged beauty and partake in the island’s unusual local customs.
Cars are not allowed here, so get ready for a lot of walking. Or opt for the more adventurous form of transportation – Hydra‘s lovely donkeys!
A seaside Easter
On Good Friday, follow the procession of the Epitaph around the freshly whitewashed cobbled streets. And don’t miss the Sea Epitaph! Once it gets dark, follow the locals in the neighbourhood of Kaminia, 10 minutes away from the main port. The Sea Epitaph of the parish of Agios Ioannis is carried through the area’s narrow streets until the procession arrives at the port of Kaminia. There, the Epitaph is submerged in the sea to bless the waters and bring luck to divers and seafarers. After the procession of the Epitaph, the community gathers to enjoy fresh seafood and Lenten meals in the local taverns.
On the evening of Holy Saturday, attend the Resurrection liturgy in the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At exactly midnight, the scenic port is set aglow by fireworks, and the port’s festively decorated boats, ships and yachts blast their sirens and send red flares into the sky!
On the afternoon of Easter Sunday you can observe the traditional burning of Judas, during which an effigy of Judas is set ablaze at the pier.
Make the most of your time in Hydra:
• Stroll through Hydra’s cobbled streets and around the port.
• Tour the imposing mansions of Tsamados (home to the oldest Naval School in the world), Tombazis, Boudouris, Miaoulis, Lazaros Kountouriotis and Pavlos Kountouriotis (all heroes of the Greek War of Independence).
• Enjoy the view from the Monastery of Prophet Elias.
• Visit the Museum of History and the Historic Archive of Hydra.
• Savour the seafood at Hydra’s local restaurants and taverns.
• Enjoy traditional marzipan from the Tsagkaris pastry shop.
Easter in Kythera
Kythera is the ideal destination for those seeking unparalleled beauty. This beauty emerges from the whitewashed walls and cobblestone streets of Hora, glistens on the surface of its turquoise waters, brings romance to the bars at Kapsali and mesmerizes you at the mere sight of the idyllic Fonissa Waterfall at the village of Mylopotamos. Easter on this island is a truly unique experience not to be missed!
A Springtime Stroll
Make the most of your visit this unique island by coming during the spring, when every inch of land is covered with wildflowers, which even peep out through the cracks of the precipitous rocks in Kakia Lagada and the imposing ramparts of the castle that stands proudly on the hill overlooking Hora. One thing is certain, Kythera never ceases to amaze.
Your visit should certainly include a stroll through the picturesque narrow streets of Hora. From there you can walk up to the Castle and enjoy the magnificent view of Kapsali. If you love hiking and the smell of flowering thyme, then you should definitely hike one of the island’s trails. And you’re bound to be spellbound by the magical Fonissa Waterfall at the village of Mylopotamos, which is surrounded by age-old plane trees that lean over into the emerald waters of the lake at the base of the waterfall. You can then follow the verdant path along a stream, which will lead you to the old watermills.
The liveliest of the inland villages is Potamos, with its beautiful square where you can enjoy good food, drink a fatourada (a local drink) and sample a rozé (a traditional Greek sweet). A farmers’ market selling local produce is held here every Sunday, perfect for sampling the local fare. The old district behind the square is also worth visiting. Karavas is considered to be one of the most beautiful villages on the island, with its Amir Ali Spring nestled in the shade of the plane trees. In the centre of the island lies Paleohora, a deserted medieval city surrounded by the Kakia Lagada ravine, which has been uninhabited ever since it was destroyed by Hayreddin Barbarossa’s pirates in 1537. Another picturesque village is Pitsinades, with its beautiful traditional houses. Avlemonas and Agia Pelagia are two of the most popular seaside villages due to their majestic beaches. And equally popular is the village of Kapsali, which bustles with life from dusk to dawn. The picturesque harbour below Hora is home to the only organized beach on the island, and to many tavernas, cafés and bars that offer a spectacular view of the sea and of the Castle.
Easter: Reverence and Revelry at the Water’s Edge
Throughout Holy Week, services are held in the charming chapels and churches in Hora and in the villages. Get into the Easter spirit and experience the ritualism by attending the services held at the island’s monasteries.
Good Friday in Hora is an experience you will never forget. The bier of Christ is carried by the locals through the narrow streets and is followed by crowds of churchgoers holding candles. The houses and shops in Hora open their doors and place an icon and censer at the entrance in order to be blessed by the passing bier.
The evening of Good Friday can also be spent attending the procession in the seaside village of Avlemonas. Here the locals light the way by placing flaming tins along the procession route. Even the sea is lit by the burning tins, whose flames are reflected on the water’s surface.
If you are looking for a more authentic experience of this religious celebration, choose one of the charming village churches for the evening of Holy Saturday and the Resurrection. If you want to enjoy the Byzantine music of a local ecclesiastical choir, then the Monastery of Panagia Myrtidiotissa would be an excellent choice.
At midnight the priest announces the resurrection of Christ by chanting the Christos Anesti hymn, which is followed by an exchange of Easter wishes under a spectacular firework display that lights up the sky and the hearts of all those present.
Unless you are invited to a local home for some spit-roasted lamb on Easter Sunday, it is highly recommended that you visit Agia Pelagia and join in the traditional Easter celebrations hosted by the villagers. There you can enjoy some local delicacies, crack some red Easter eggs and feast on the lambs lined up on spits right by the water’s edge while listening to traditional live music by local musicians. The dancing never stops before sunset!
In the days following Easter, the island of Kythera bears witness to the revival of yet another local religious tradition involving the circulation of the holy icon of Panagia Myrtidiotissa, which begins on Easter Monday in Hora, where the icon is displayed from the Feast of Orthodoxy until the Resurrection. Then the icon begins its tour through the island’s villages finally returning to the monastery. This is one of the island’s oldest traditions.
Easter on Kythera is truly a one-of-a-kind delight! Even a short visit will be enough to convince you!