April 13, 2012

Greek Customs and Traditions for Good Friday

Pascha is uniquely celebrated in Greece, and one of the most important days anticipating the feast is Good Friday, which is a strict fast day and has its own unique ways throughout Greece of how the pious show their honor for the day. Lets take a look at how some areas of Greece display their piety on Good Friday:

Thrace: In Thrace an important custom is the "Burning of Judas". According to this custom, children make an effigy of Judas Iscariot and parade it from house to house begging for sticks of wood. They will use these following the procession with the Epitaphios where they will light a fire and burn the effigy of Judas. Then they take the ashes and throw them in the cemetery.

Hydra: Hydra has a unique custom for Good Friday. In the Kamini district the Service of Lamentations is held in the sea, followed by fireworks which illuminate the sky.

Zakynthos: On the island of Zakynthos the procession with the Epitaphios is done differently than other places in Greece. According to ancient custom, the procession with the Epitaphios, which symbolizes Christ's descent into Hades, is done right before sunrise in the early morning hours, and when the sun rises the Bishop raises the victory flag of the Resurrection.

Litochoro: The decoration of the Epitaphios is done Holy Thursday night in Litochoro by unmarried girls, who throughout Great Lent make flowers out of fabric. Then on Good Friday evening the Epitaphios is processed to the center of town where various choirs meet, creating an amazing spectacle.

Aitoliko: Pilgrims specifically travel to the Dormition of the Theotokos Church in Aitoliko to visit a historic Epitaphio which dates to the 13th-14th century.

Nafpaktos: Good Friday evening a large crowd gathers for the procession with the Epitaphios with lit torches and they all gather at the harbor lighting the torches at the castle, which transports everyone to another era. And at the harbor entrance torches form a large cross that offers a spectaculor view.

Macedonia: Beginning on Holy Thursday the people of Macedonia put a red towel, symbolizing the blood of Christ, out their window or on their balcony. They keep it there till Pascha, and during this time the women don't do any laundry.

Syros: In Syros there is an Orthodox parish and a Catholic parish which celebrate Pascha according to the Orthodox calendar. The Catholic Epitaphio leaves from Ano Syro from the Church of Saint George and in Hermopolis it leaves from the Evangeliston Church. The Orthodox procession begins from the Church of Saint Nicholas, the Church of the Dormition and the Metropolis of the Transfiguration. They all meet at the center of town and offer a prayer together.

Paros: In Marpissa on the island of Paros the Epitaphios procession has fifteen stops. At each stop a section of the mountain lights up, and children dressed as Roman soldiers or disciples of Christ depict scenes such as the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, the prayer on the Mount of Olives, and the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. On Holy Saturday the island is full of lights with countless fireworks.