The Greek Orthodox Easter is the most sacred and celebrated holiday by the locals: there are a lot of customs and traditions that people maintain even in the modern life, and it is during the Holy Week that preparations come to their climax.
If you are planning to visit Santorini in spring, you should definitely arrange your plans to be here for Easter. Not only is the island beautifully covered with flowers, is not that crowded and the weather's not too hot, but the locals are in the best of their mood in anticipation of the upcoming holiday.
In the beginning of the Holy Week, the local women meet to bake the traditional Easter cakes and sweets, such as tsourekia (Easter bread or brioche), koulouria (buns) and, of course, the famous Santorini melitinia (sweet cheese tartlets). They all come together in one kitchen and do their "magic", so at the end of the day all families can share the delicious treats.
On Holy Thursday, the Santorinians decorate the Easter eggs. Contrary to most of the other countries, in Greece the eggs are dyed red, because this is the color of life, and it represents the blood of Christ. In the evening service of the church, the priest carries out a symbolic crucifixion, and young women coming from every village of Santorini, sepnd the whole night to mourn the death of Christ.
The Holy or Good Friday is the holiest day of the year. The church bells ring slowly in a mourning tone all day, people bring flowers to the church to decorate the symbolic bier of Christ, called "Epitaphios", and the 40 days of fasting come to their climax. The meals people have on that day are simple, cooked only in boiled in water and should contain no meat, milk and milk products, or eggs.
To see the "Epitaphios ceremony" on Good Friday night you have to go to Pyrgos. Pyrgos is the highest village of Santorini with a view to the whole island. But on this night, the whole island looks up to Pyrgos, the villagers light firebrands and spread them in the entire village. Every wall, every house, every roof, every path – the whole village lights up and it is an amazing spectacle to see as you approach.
The bier, which is decorated with flowers, bearing the image of Christ, is carried through the narrow paths of the village to the cemetery, followed by thousands of faithful villagers carrying candles.
On the morning of Great Saturday, while women prepare the traditional Magiritsa (Easter soup) and men the Easter feast for the next day, the "Eternal Flame" is brought to the churches: at the midnight Service of Resurrection everybody holds theirs candles called “Lambatha” to bring home the Eternal Flame, as a sign of good luck, after the priest has announced that “Christ has risen”.
If you are ever in Santorini on Easter Sunday, go to any of the Santorini beaches! Numerous lambs are grilled by local families, all happy to invite you to celebrate with them. Usually the Easter feast comes with some good local wine and lots of singing and dancing.
"Χριστός Ανέστη!" (Christos Anesti) is the happy wish for everybody – Christ has risen!