April 20, 2020

Despite Quarantine Measures, Greeks Find Unique Ways to Celebrate Easter

The weekend of Easter 2020 will go down in history as being among the most unique. In particular Greece, where the great majority of the population are Orthodox Christians, though the people were confined behind closed doors during the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter due to the coronavirus crisis, unique ways were found to participate in the celebrations throughout the land. Everyone celebrated nonetheless, mostly with people going outside their homes and on their balconies to sing "Christ is Risen" as soon as the bells struck at midnight and fireworks in many places were fired off. The videos are too numerous to post, so you can take a look at a sample here.

However, the past few days have also been very busy in Greece for police stations, as many violated the rules and attempted to go to church, or priests left doors to churches open to allow the faithful to come in if they so desired. This resulted in many arrests and warnings and fines for both the clergy and the laity. In some places, however, the people would gather for the Epitaphios procession at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning to avoid arrest and dispersion, although this is actually the traditional time when this service has always been done in parts of Greece. Some processions of the Epitaphios were done in pick up trucks in order to be taken up and down the streets while keeping with the social distancing rules.

Below are a few examples of some unique Greek priests over the Easter weekend:

On Great Friday the priest of the Church of Saint Marina in the village of Nea Roino in Nafplio processed the Epitaphios (without the Kouvouklion) through the streets of the village by himself, accompanied by a few chanters singing the Lamentations. The faithful were overjoyed to see this, yelling out "Axios" ("Worthy") to the priest. He then reentered the church to complete the Service, behind locked doors.

On the Aegean island of Chios, Father Christophoros Gourlis, who has become famous in the past for the very joyful and theatrical way in which he conducts the Holy Saturday morning liturgy at the Church of Panagia Evangelistria, was arrested on Saturday and fined more than 5,000 euros after refusing to lock the doors of his church and giving the people freedom to enter at their own risk. As police dragged away one woman trying to enter the church, the priest was heard yelling: "Shame! This is an outrage!"

As soon as the clock struck midnight at the Church of Saint George in Neapoli, a suburb of Thessaloniki, the priest took to the streets to lead the people from their balconies in the singing of "Christ is Risen".

Here are a sample of photos from Easter Sunday at midnight in various places throughout Greece, though mainly in Athens: