One of the biggest holidays in Greece is Easter. In the Greek Orthodox religion, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated, and it is the most important day of the year for an Orthodox Christian. Many times, the dates do not align with the Western Easter, and this year Greek Easter takes place a week later.
During the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, many people fast. The final week leading up to Easter Sunday is called Holy Week, which depicts the story of Jesus Christ. On each day, something different is celebrated by the church alongside different traditions taking place in the homes of the Greek families.
Thursday marks the day when Jesus is on the cross, and to symbolize the Last Supper, families dye hard-boiled eggs red. The red color symbolizes the blood of Christ and the eggshell represents the sealed tomb of Christ.
On Holy Friday, Jesus Christ is lying in his tomb, and in the Orthodox church a coffin is decorated (epitaph) and carried by the people around the streets.
Saturday is when he is buried and rises the next day. At this time, masses are gathered at the church, holding a candle in their hands, singing Christos Anesti (Χριστός ανέστη = Christ is risen) when the clock strikes midnight.
Then comes the big day, Easter Sunday. It is the time where families gather and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ with food, drinks, cheer, and good company. Greeks crack their red eggs as a symbol of Christ rising from the dead.
How do Greeks celebrate Easter in Kalymnos?
Every Greek island has its own unique Easter traditions, and Kalymnos of course has its own way of doing so.
The Kalymnians make a whole lot of noise with dynamite, which they cast about throughout the island (safely we hope). They also feast on their very own version of stuffed lamb in the oven, which they call Mouri.
The two of us have unfortunately never experienced Easter in Kalymnos (let alone, Greece). Luckily, our friend Michael Kalogerakis, who is a local on the island, has been kind enough to share his perspective on Easter in Kalymnos:
“Easter in Kalymnos Island is a unique period that every traveler must experience. The whole island waits for these days to come. Holy Week is combined with many different happenings due to the Orthodox religion, but the most important days are the last three ones.
On Friday night, it is the day of the Epitaph (decorated coffin), where every enoria (region in Kalymnos) has its own Epitaph which is carried in the streets by the people.
On Holy Saturday, there is much to do. Then men are heating up the stone oven in the afternoon, and the boys are gathering dry wood for them to help get the fire going.
In the meantime, Kalymnian women are preparing the traditional Kalymnian Easter meal, Μουούρι (Mouri), which is lamb stuffed with rice, red sauce, and spices. It is a day that is filled with many preparations!
Nowadays there are fewer ovens on the island, so families gather at a home which has an oven. All the lamb must be cooked together into the big clay oven. The lamb is stuffed and slowly cooked to perfection.
At 12:00 PM (Saturday afternoon), it is the first Anastasi (resurrection). Pothia square is completely crowded by young men who are throwing dynamite in the air, creating a bombarding atmosphere. This time is symbolic because it was when they found out that the tomb of where Jesus laid in was empty.
On late Saturday evening, every family goes to church around 11:00 PM. At midnight, the priest preaches “Christos Anesti – Christ is risen”. This is the moment when the conviviality changes on a whole different level. Everybody is in their high spirits and firecrackers are taxing your ears.
The first thing we do on Easter Sunday is open the ovens to fetch the clay crocks which contain the slow cooked, delicious Mouri. Certainly, everybody must try everyone else’s dish. It is mostly a family day where the whole family gathers (a typical Greek family is above 20 people which includes aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.). The meal lasts until everyone is full. It is a great celebration.
In the afternoon, Pothia square is full once again, mainly because of the dynamite show that takes place every year. Kalymnians throw dynamite from two mountains on either side of Pothia, and the sound of it exploding sometimes even reaches Kantouni, which the opposite side of the island. Some have even said that the locals in Kos can hear them exploding!
The one mountain is on the side where Agios Savvas is, and the other located on the opposite side is called Maurovouni (black mountain) due to a fatal accident that happened back in 1980. When the exploding dynamite ends, there are fireworks and usually the Traditional Dance Group of Kalymnos organizes an event where all Kalymnians can enjoy dance and sing to traditional sounds.”
Meet the co-creator Michael Kalogerakis
Hi! I am Michael Kalogerakis, born and raised in Kalymnos Island (worldwide known as the sponge divers island).
I am currently studying Chemistry in the University of Crete. However, my passion is photography and I try to capture moments and details of our everyday life.