The Easter in Greece is celebrating the first Sunday after the full moon of the spring equinox and is considered the largest and richest in folklore Christian celebration. In the Cyclades, Easter revives traditional customs and traditions. The Pathi and the Resurrection of Christ are celebrated with special brilliance and devotion in each Cycladic island.
Santorini, like most islands in the Cyclades, manages, more or less, to keep many of their customs and traditions intact to this day. It can make their visitor travel to another time in past of Greece. The only thing you should need is to rent a Santorini car and a map to visit all the villages.
The Cross of Lazarus
The Sabbath of Lazarus is celebrated especially impressively in the villages of Santorini. Lazaros is a large cross made of boat wood, while it is covered with rosemary or alimari and the young women of the island sprinkle it with vaya and fill it with flowers. It symbolizes the resurrection of Lazarus and remains adorned in the square until Holy Saturday.
Tandalos & the cans of Good Friday
In the traditional village of Pyrgos, on Good Friday after the decapitation, Tandalos comes out in the village that announces the event, while the bells ring mournfully. The procession of the Epitaph on Good Friday in the village and in recent years in Akrotiri is a unique experience for the visitor.
Fires are lit on cans of oil lamps, which give a very soothing atmosphere, while the women from the courtyards of the houses light the procession of the Epitaph with rose water.
The Meletinas of the Resurrection
The Santorini housewives prepare for the Easter Sunday the meletinia (in Paros you will find them as mizithropitakia, in Crete as lamps), which are pies with mizithra, sugar and mastic and had a special way in their “embroidery”… For this reason, the housewives of Santorini gathered in a house together and made them.
The burning of Ovri
Another custom that takes place on Easter day in many villages of Thira is the burning of the Ovri (ie the Jew, Judas). In the village square, the so-called people’s court of Ovrio is organized, whose verdict, of course, is to “burn Judas”. Then they make a man-made cloth model, which is hung and burned.
Other customs and traditions in Santorini
Ai Giannis o Klidonas
In Santorini, the May wreaths hang on the doors of the houses until the eve of Ai Giannis of Prodromos or Klidonas on June 23. Then they gather in the village squares in a large pile and set them on fire, while the residents of all ages jump over the fire for good luck.
The royals at the festival of the Savior
In Pyrgos, in the celebration of the Transfiguration of the Savior on August 6, a special custom still prevails today. According to this costum, the young people of the village on the eve of the feast steal pots of basil from the yards of the girls and decorate the dome of the temple with them.
An event that takes place every August, usually after the 15th of the month, is the representation of the eruption of Santorini volcano using sparklers and flares. After the end of the performance, there is a concert and a dance.
Traditional wedding in Akrotiri
In the summer, visitors to the island can see the process of performing the traditional Santorini wedding if they visit Akrotiri. The preparations for the wedding begin many days before and culminate on the eve when the bridal bed is laid, while the groom brings the box with his clothes to the bride’s house.
With them, they have a carafe of wine covered with a white silk headscarf and they are accompanied by organ players. As soon as they arrive, the best man waters a vineyard with wine and the priest chooses two vines, which must have many “eyes”, which symbolize the children that the couple will make. The priest rolls the vines in such a way that they do not break because this is considered rude to the newly-weds.
After drinking the rest of the wine, they return home where the girls get the vintage wreaths, which they use at the wedding ceremony. The people leave the house and go to church, while the bride will be prepared by the seamstress, who will sew a piece of paper on her wedding dress with the names of the free girls who are waiting to get married.
The harvest & the wineries
The word vendetta is Italian and so they call the harvest in Santorini. Preparations begin in the first days of August with the cleaning of the wineries. The grapes were transported to the canvas and depending on their colour (white or black), they are thrown into a separate press. They are then pressed and stored in barrels.
On the day that the press ends, there is a big celebration. However, a great celebration for the people of Santorini is the 22nd of October, the feast of Agios Averkios. It is the day when the barrels are opened and the wines are tasted. The barrels are crossed with a basil branch, sanctified by the prist, while tasting the new wine. This is followed by a party with songs and dances.
One of the customs and traditions of the island that remains unchanged to this day is the “Agiomnisia” or otherwise the celebration and the festival in the memory of each Saint. Shortly before the respective feast of the Saint, the church is cleaned while its icons are decorated. In many of the villages of the island the road to the church is paved with rosemary.
In a public church, money is collected from everyone for the expenses of the celebration, while in private chapels the expenses are borne by the owners. If there is a house next to the church (the so-called “festive houses” in the Cyclades), it undertakes the preparation of the food. Men cook bean soup, fava beans and other delicacies in cauldrons depending on the season and if it is fasting period, while the wine flows abundantly. In many of the festivals, there is a dance with tsambounes, lutes and violins…
The most important festivals on the island are: of Panagia Myrtidiotissa in Kamari, of Panagia Platsani in Oia, of Stavros in Perissa, of Profitis Ilias in the monastery, the celebration of Deka in Panagia Episkopis and in Kera but also the Entrances of the Virgin Mary in Agrilia.
New Year’s carols in Oia
The Twelfth Day of Christmas was the only holiday of the year that Oia sailors and their families were on a ship that had returned from their voyages in late November. The New Year’s carols were not sung by young children but by groups of men, mostly young people, accompanied by violins at noon on New Year’s Eve.
It was time for the festive table where all the families were gathered at the table. So all the houses had their doors open to hear the carols from the young men of the village. Divided into groups, they went all over Apano Meria with the violins and sang carols in the neighbourhoods as if they were singing. One of the first houses they visited was the girls who were secretly in love and with the excuse for the carols they had the opportunity to see their favourites.
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