5 unique and local Easter traditions around Greece

Easter is the most significant religious holiday in Greece. It is celebrated by all Greeks, all over the world. However, it is the perfect time for you to explore Greek culture. While the celebration of Easter is a time of joy, renewal, and hope for the Greeks, family and friends to come together, share traditional Easter foods, and break some red-dyed eggs. Greek easter traditions include lighting the Paschal candle, reading the Passion of Christ, and a spit-roasted lamb. Besides, every island and region in Greece has its own unique and local traditions related to this special holiday. Below is a list of the most unique and local Easter traditions in Greece.

The Rocket War at Chios

The northeastern Aegean Sea island of Chios is known for its unique Easter tradition. The Rouketopolemos, or Rocket War. In other words, a friendly competition between the two main churches of Chios. Locals gather at Saint Marcos and Panagia Ereithiani, and from there they launch thousands of homemade fireworks at each other. The result is magnificent, as the whole town lights up with the horizontally flying fireworks.

The origin of this event is unknown, but local legend dates it back to the Ottoman era. However, the event did not go without danger, and often the emergency resources had to step in. Fires and accidents were far too common. As a result, it is no longer allowed to aim directly at the other church from the streets since 2021. Nevertheless, the event remains a unique and local Easter tradition in Greece.

The smashing pots of Corfu

On Corfu, the earthquake custom is revived in the Holy Church of Panagia ton Xenos, where the faithful hit the pews to simulate the earthquake that occurred after Jesus’ resurrection. While bells of all the city’s churches ring joyfully at 11 a.m., the residents throw water-filled clay jugs tied with red ribbons from their balconies or windows. This Corfu-only tradition dates back to the Venetian occupation of the island and represents the removal of bad luck and the bringing of good luck and prosperity.

The balloons of Leonidio

In Leonidio, a tradition is practiced on the night of the Resurrection. Residents light hundreds of colorful balloons and release them into the sky while the priests chant” Xriston Anesti. Christ is Risen. Before this night, every household in Leonidio’s five parishes prepares their balloons with great care, employing a unique technique involving cane and paper. The balloons can fly up high into the air and are detonated with a piece of oil-soaked cloth. The view is unbelievable, like a swarm of flaming birds forming a new constellation in the sky accompanied by fireworks. 

The tradition is thought to have originated in ancient times when lighted torches in specific locations on mountaintops were used to send messages over long distances. However, local sailors were said to have been inspired by similar customs in Asia. They brought the hot air balloons back to their homeland, where it was incorporated into the Resurrection celebration.

Acting in Paros

Easter traditions in Greece are not limited to Easter Sunday. Instead, the Greeks celebrate a week of Easter, the Holy Week. The Friday before Easter Sunday is the day on which Jesus was crucified. The Greeks celebrate this with the Epitaphios processionThe Greek Good Friday parade.

On Paros, the parade follows an interesting route along the mountain villages. It goes around the streets, but along the way, there are multiple stops. At these stops, a scene from Jesus’ life is represented. Around 200 people, mostly children, participate to act in these different scenes. A fascinating tradition!

A march into the sea at Tinos

The Tinos church is a popular destination for many holidays, particularly Easter. On Good Friday night, the Catholic Epitaph is walked around the Chora area, followed by seven epitaphs from different parishes gathering on a marble platform for prayers. Many people attend the ceremony, and boats and ships participate by “whistling” and bowing in unusual ways. Saint Nicholas’ epitaph is then carried into the sea with lit torches and a burning cross, creating a magical atmosphere.

Travel tip:

If you’re planning on visiting on of these unique and local Easter traditions in Greece, keep in mind that Greek (Orthodox) Easter, might not be on the same day as your Easter. This year, Easter will be celebrated on the 16th of April.

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Fall in love with Greece in Autumn

We said goodbye to our sunglasses and shorts. Now we wear jackets and don’t leave the house without an umbrella. Days have become shorter and grey. Summer is over, and we look forward to Christmas or spring next year. However, the fall doesn’t have to be rainy and cold, not when you treat yourself to a getaway in Greece!

Fall is perfect in Greece

Although Greece is the place to be in summer, the country is a perfect destination through all seasons. Autumn in particular. While temperatures are still more than pleasant, tourists are rare, and prices are much more budget-friendly. Besides, the mountainous landscape of Greece turns into a beautiful painting when trees change the color of their leaves.

Temperature

Autumn’s temperatures are perfect for those who don’t like the heat of Greece’s summers. In September, temperatures reach between 25-30 degrees(77 – 86 F). October averages 20-25 degrees ( 68 – 77 F), with mostly sunny days. In November, the chance of rain increases, and temperatures drop to 15 – 20 (59 – 68 F). But still, most days are more than pleasant. Just pack a jacket for the nights and early mornings.

Benefits of visiting Greece in the fall

Lower temperatures

The lower temperatures in autumn in Greece, especially in September and October are a huge benefit compared to the summer. Summers are great for the perfect beach holiday, but often prevent you from many other activities Greece has to offer. During the fall however, you can fully explore this beautiful country.

The view

High temperatures and dust tend to obstruct the views of the Greek landscape during summer. It is continuously hazy in July and August. Close-by islands and mountains look vague, making landscape photography or even a good view difficult. However, as soon as the temperature drops and the chance of rain increases, the sky clears. You can see further away while the landscape adapts to its beautiful autumn colors. The result? Magnificent views, perfect for both landscape photographers and nature lovers.

Lower prices

Prices are always a result of the combination of supply and demand. Since many tourists want to visit Greece in the hot summer months, prices increase, and a holiday can become extremely expensive. During the fall, demand drops, and with it, the prices decrease. This results in cheaper accommodation, food, drinks, car rental, and plane tickets. 

Less crowded

Greece is full in summer. There are about three times more tourists than there are locals and a cue for every popular tourist attraction. Fall, however, is the time you can enjoy Greece without these crowds. Perfect beaches can be private, lines at archeological sites disappear, and you can explore the idyllic traditional villages at your own pace.

Culture

Fall in Greece is magical, giving the most precious fruits: olives (olive oil), grapes, chestnuts and more. And people express their love for those product in famous agricultural festivals, small or big, all around Greece. From a family harvesting and pressing the grapes to a whole village celebrating their precious product. Attending one of these festivals is the most authentic experience you can have.

What to do in Greece in Autumn?

September is the time the real Greeks go on holiday in their country. The Greek islands and sea still have a pleasant temperature this month, while accommodations are much more affordable.

From October, a beach holiday might not be the best option anymore. The sea-water temperatures are still ok, but many beach bars are closed, and an entire day in beach-wear can get chilly. However, this is the perfect time to discover everything else Greece has to offer. The mountains, the cities, and the culture.

Archeological sites

Greece is famous for its rich amount of archeological sites all over the country. However, visiting these sites on a summer day is far from pleasant in my experience. Days are too hot, and the sites often lack a shadow or a cooling breeze. Autumn, however, provides a great climate to discover Greece’s history. Plan a visit to Delphi. Or combine Epidaurus, Mykines, and Mystras with the colorful landscape of Peloponnese. 

Agricultural festivals

During September you can join the harvesting and pressing of grapes in many areas around Greece, especially around Thessaly. You can also join the famous festival of pistachios in Aegina.

October is the month of the distillation of tsikoudia in Crete or tsipouro in the mainland. Be prepared to be invited to a family’s celebration, which includes a lot of food, alcohol, music, and dancing. Chestnuts also have their special moment during October. You can find those festivals all over Greece, especially in mountainous areas.

Finally, end of October and November the most famous Greek product, our beloved olives, are getting picked. Peloponnese, Crete & Lesbos are the biggest producers. There you can see locals picking the olives and in many agro-tourism guesthouses, you can see and even join the process of olive oil production.

City trips

Athens and Thessaloniki are the two largest cities in Greece. Both have a lot to provide, from historical sites to amazing food. And with the beautiful urban atmosphere at night, there is something for everyone. During the Autumn months, the temperature in Athens is still pleasant. So don’t be surprised if you enjoy your Greek coffee under the rock of the Acropolis wearing only your t-shirt.

On the other hand, the weather in Thessaloniki can be unpredictable, but still, the temperature is pleasant. The gastronomical experience the city has to offer deserves your visit. And don’t forget to visit the many historical sites that are hidden throughout the whole city.

Another Greek city that is not well known but perfect for an Autumn getaway is Ioannina. Ioannina is surrounded by mountains and is located around a huge lake. Visit the old castle, enjoy local food, or go hiking in the mountains around.

Hiking

Greece is over 80% mountainous and perfect for hiking and climbing. Since the summers are often too hot for these activities, the Greek mountains are the perfect destination during the fall. Wonderful locations for an active autumn getaway are:

  • Zagorohoria and Tzoumerka in the Epirus region.
  • Crete, where you can hike along multiple beautiful gorges
  • The Corfu trail, the whole length of the island from North to South. 
  • Conquer Mount Olympus, the highest mountain of the gods.

Tips:

  • What to do on a rainy day?
    Although most days in the fall have plenty of sunshine, you might get unlucky and encounter a rainy day in Greece. But don’t worry, there is still plenty to do in Greece. Visit one of the many indoor museums, go shopping in the giant indoor shopping malls around the big cities, or go to one of the many religious sites. Besides, a rainy day is perfect to get in touch with your inner real Greek. Go for a coffee in one of the many kafeneio’s to wait till it gets dry. I am sure you will meet many locals who join you to do the same.
  • Check what is open. 
    Although Autumn is perfect for a trip to Greece, many touristic places are only open during the summer months. When you plan on visiting one of the smaller islands, it is a good idea to check what is still open during the fall. Beach bars, boat rentals, or even taverns might have adjusted opening hours, or might close completely.
  • Pack a jacket
    Although temperatures in Autumn in Greece can be more than pleasant during the days, the night can get chilly. When you’re traveling outside the months of July and August, it is always a good idea to bring a jacket for the nights!

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When going on a road trip in a foreign country, it might be hard to find good snacks along the way. Where to go and what to buy? If you would ask me to name the best Greek snack, I would tell you to try bougatsa. However, this delicious dish is impossible to eat behind the wheel.

The ultimate road trip snack should be easy to eat while driving and not too expensive. You don’t want your car to fill up with packaging or spilled food, and you don’t want to have to stop to eat either. We made a list of the perfect snacks for your road trip through Greece, ordered by the places that offer them. 

Supermarkets

Supermarkets are everywhere in Greece, from small villages to big cities. When starting a road trip through Greece, make sure to visit a supermarket before you hit the road. Get the essential supplies so when you end up with a broken car, you can sustain yourself until help comes.

Water

Don’t forget to buy water before you go on a road trip through Greece in summer. In case something happens to your car and you end up stranded on the side of the road underneath the burning sun, you need water. At supermarkets in Greece, big bottles are available in six packs for a low price. You can even decide to leave them in the trunk all journey, but just make sure to have them with you.

Filled croissants

All supermarkets, but gas stations and kiosks as well, sell ready-made croissants with chocolate, jam, or creme inside. They are super tasty! You can find them individually packed, or in one package with multiple smaller croissants. The latter one is perfect as a road trip snack. My favorite croissants are the mini vanilla ones from the brand called 7-days. I will not start any road trip in Greece without them.

Tsourekáki

Tsoureki is a Greek bread, mostly eaten during Easter. It is made with a sweet yeast dough of flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and milk. Tsourekaki, are small tsourekies. In Greek, everything ending at –aki, is the small version of the word before –aki. Like the croissants, they have options with chocolate or jam filling. 

snacks greece filled croissants sweet jam chocolate molto colourful packages
Frappe

Do you want coffee on your road trip but don’t have a coffee machine or hot water available? In Greek supermarkets, you can buy cups of instant cold coffee. All you need is some water and a shake. It is an amazing product to take with you around Greece and only costs 40 cents per cup.

Bake rolls

Bake rolls are toasted bread in a bag, costing only 65 cents. Sounds boring, but they come in various flavors. The most popular ones in Greece are salt, pizza, and tomato olive. They stay good for a long time, and since they are salty a good idea for the summer heat.

On the road

After leaving the supermarket and hitting the road, you will have many opportunities to find more amazing snacks. Especially when driving on the national roads that often pass through many villages. Get out at gas stations, bakeries, and small side road kiosks, and enjoy the following Greek snacks.

snacks in greece bakery with traditional oven on brick wall koulouri
Koulouri

Koulouri is a Greek bread ring with sesame seeds on the outside. You might know them as simit since this is what they are called in Turkey. They are a perfect and easy-to-eat breakfast. 

Tiropita

Greek pita (and I don’t mean the giros bread) is the tastiest thing in Greece, after bougatsa. Pita in Greek can mean two things. The flatbread pita that will all know, but also a variety of savory pies. Spanakopita, kotopita, kreatopita, and tiropita are examples of this category. Greek pitas consist of super crunchy phyllo dough and a delicious filling. They are often available in small triangular shapes, making them easy to eat on the road. With the huge variety of types of pitas, you will never get bored of them.

Fruit from local farmers

Many farmers sell their fresh fruits and vegetables along the road in Greece. I can advise you to try their fruits. These taste much better than the fruits you can buy at a supermarket, and the farmers are friendly and helpful. 

Hotdogs or Gyros

If you need a more filling snack but do not want to spend too much time off the road, try gyros or a hotdog. These two dishes are quick to make and eat and often don’t cost more than 3 or 4 euros. 

Coffee

Good coffee is everywhere in Greece. Along the highway, as well as at the gas stations, you can find coffee that will surprise you. Don’t know which coffee to order in Greece? Check this post about the four Greek coffees you must try when visiting Greece.

Beach bars

When spending a lot of time on the road in Greece during summer, there is nothing better than a quick stop at a beach. Cool down with a swim in the sea and eat something while you dry up before you get on the road again. You can stretch your legs, cool down, and have a good, affordable, and quick meal, all at the same time. Here are the things you can order at a beach bar when you are only there for a quick stop.

Club sandwich

Every beach bar all over Greece will serve club sandwiches. On average, a club sandwich will cost around 5 to 6 euros, and come with either fries or chips. The good thing about this dish is that it will never take long to receive your order. Besides, you can easily save one or two pieces to take with you in the car for later.

Pizza

Everyone knows them and loves them. In most places, you can order a pizza with different toppings. Greek pizza is usually slightly thicker than the Italian versions. During the summer pick a pizza with few fresh ingredients like basil, seafood, or even the controversial pineapple.

Fruit salads

Few things in life provide you with as much joy as a refreshing fruit salad when the temperature touches the high 30s. Commonly used fruits include melon, watermelon, grapes, berries, bananas, and more.

Ice-cream

The unhealthy alternative to a fruit salad. There is a taste for everyone. Vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, and strawberry are the most common tastes. Insider tip, try kaimaki flavored ice cream with dazzling mastic taste.

Cocktails

A glass filled with ice and an amazing mixture of tastes. Just choose your favorite one and slowly drink it. But remember, if you are planning to drive choose a virgin (alcohol-free) version. 

The last tip I want to give you is to try piroski. This dish is originally not Greek but Russian. However, it is one of my favorite Greek snacks. Unfortunately, I could not put it on the list because piroski is very hard to find and regional, limited to the Greek Pontians. That said, if you do find piroski, try it! It is fried dough with a tasty filling consisting of potato, cheese, or meat. My grandmother makes this whenever I go on a road trip, and it is difficult to imagine road trip in Greece without this snack.

snacks greece small pitas chicken and cheese overlooking blue sea in background with trees and beach

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Why do many Greek men have a beard?

While strolling around a Greek town or village, you might be surprised by an abundance of facial hair. And abroad, you are often able to recognize the Greeks by their beards as well. Although Greek men have a variety of facial hair, from mustaches to stubbles to full-grown beards, not often do you see a Greek cleanly shaved. Did you ever wonder why most Greek men have a beard?

It is genetics

Charles Darwin hypothesized that the process of sexual selection may have led to beards. Modern biologists agree that a beard shows sexual maturity and dominance for both animals and humans.

But according to this theory, it does not make sense that just us, Greek men, showed off our manliness by hair. And this is also a misconception. 

It is not true that one ethnic group is more “hairy” than another. All humans have more or less the same amount of hair follicles. But the size, length, and pigmentation differ. This creates the illusion that some people are hairier than others.

Throughout history, our genes adjusted and mutated due to the environment. As a consequence of gene mixing and climate effects, Greek men tend to have darker, thicker hair, which can be noticed as a richer beard. Especially compared to the much lighter northern European ones.

However, darker hairs are not an excuse for growing your beard. Of course, shaving machines and razors are available in Greece, but we tend not to use them as often. So, what are the reasons that Greek men let their beards grow?

Health benefits

Even though many people may associate a beard with poor hygiene, this is not true. A well-maintained beard can have several health benefits, including:

  • A beard protects the skin from UV rays. 
    This is especially important in a sunny county like Greece. After all, who needs sunscreen for the face?!
  • A bear keeps you warm. 
    Greece may be famous for the sun, but the majority of the county has cold winters. With temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius, a thick beard can act as nature’s scarf.
  • A beard protects you from allergies. 
    Greece’s landscape is full of flowers, plants, and trees. During springtime, many pollens fly around, and a beard forms an extra protective layer against them. No more sneezing for us!
  • A beard improves your psychology. 
    Numerous men feel more attractive when maintaining a beard. Furthermore, scientists have found that men with full beards are perceived as better at raising and protecting their children. 

The history of the Greek beard

For the ancient Greeks, beards were a sign of wisdom, manhood, and the pivotal moment from childhood into adulthood. Bearded men were highly appreciated in ancient Greek society. Socrates, Homer, Plato, and Pericles all had a beard, and even Greek gods were portrayed with a beard. In Homer’s Iliad, Achilles’ mother, Thetis, asks Zeus to swear by his beard, which makes his promise sacred and inviolable. The beard was an obsession in ancient Greek times.

During the era of Alexander the Great, the high status linked to a beard, was diminished. The great general was a big fan of the clean-shaven look. But he also believed that a beard could be used by opponents to grab on to during combat. He ordered all soldiers to fight without facial hair. 

However, the identification of the beard as a symbol of age and wisdom arose among intellectuals. The philosophers of this time usually refused to shave. And later on, the beard came back to Greece. The Romans distinguished themselves from the Greeks by being shaved.

In the Byzantine era, the beard was emphasized as a sign of masculinity. At this time, an important role in court governance was played by eunuchs. These men did not produce testosterone and could not grow beards. Therefore, the presence of a beard proved that the man in question was anatomically complete. For this reason, to this day, the masculine is called “βαρβάτος”, barbatus, bearded.

During the Late Middle Ages, a shaved look was again the norm in Western Europe. This trend was linked to the imposition of celibacy on the part of priests. A trimmed face contributed to declaring the sacrifice of their male reproductive power. Again the presence or absence of a beard separated the Greek from the Latin.

Tradition and religion

From the beginning of history, humans used clothes, accessories, and even their bodies to indicate their social and economic status. From ancient Egypt until today, a beard can have many meanings. The length, the style, or even the absence of it. The meaning and status of the beard changed multiple times throughout history and will continue to change.

In Christianity, art depicts Jesus and many biblical characters such as Moses and Abraham with a beard. Most Orthodox Saints are portrayed with beards as well, thus for the clergymen, facial hair was an “inviolable law”.

Tradition is an important factor as well. The majority of the Greek heroes do not wear a cape, but they have beards. And who were the everyday heroes in Greece? The sailors, the captain, and the fishermen. They all maintain a beard.

Also, during mourning, we tend to grow our beards long. It is an Orthodox tradition, not to shave for at least forty days after a loved one passes away. However, during the 20th century, beards were not appreciated by the average domesticated Greek. They were a sign of dirty and rebellious youth, only to be worn by the hippies and the communist. 

The Greek beard today

Nowadays, the younger Greek men do maintain a beard for various reasons. As I mentioned earlier, we believe that we look more masculine and wise, which results in more confidence. 

But I consider convenience the most important reason! It is easier for most of us to grow our beard and trim it once per week or month than to develop a daily routine. We prefer to use those 10 minutes a day, to drink our coffee, talk with a loved one, or even take a nice afternoon nap.

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Siga, Siga

During your stay in Greece, while sipping coffee in front of the sea, you will hear the phrase, “siga siga” all around you. But what does it mean? Is it an exotic island like Bora Bora, or the scientific name of an animal like Vulpes Vulpes? Why would all the Greeks keep talking about this mysterious place or animal? How can something be so important that all Greeks need to remind each other about it all the time?

Meaning of Siga Siga

One thing is sure. “Σιγά-σιγά” is very important to the Greeks. However, it is not an animal, nor an exotic island. Siga siga is not an actual physical thing, it is a way of life. It is one of the simplest but most identifying phrases the Greeks use.

If you search on Wiktionary you will find the following three explanations of siga-siga. Gradually, carefully, and very slowly. But I will add one more. Relaxingly! Because, although siga means slowly, siga-siga does not simply mean doing things twice as slow. It is a mindset rather than a speed limit.

Example no.1: Relax

Imagine you are in line to buy a ticket for a concert of your favorite band. It is crowded and people start getting impatient. They start pushing and trying to skip the line. At that point, you hear someone shouting ” Σιγά-σιγά ρε παιδιά. Φτάνουν για όλους”. Relax children! There is enough for everyone.

Example no.2: Careful

For our next example, imagine you are on an expedition. Indiana Jones-style, in the wild, with your best friend. In front of you, is a flimsy wooden suspension bridge. After a quick discussion, you decide that you will be the one going over the bridge first. Your friend will say to you “Σιγά-σιγά φίλε μου. Η γέφυρα δεν είναι σταθερή”. Careful my friend. The bridge is not stable.

Example no.3: Slow down

Or you are sitting in an amazing ταβέρνα, a tavern, next to a beach with golden sand and clear blue water. But you are hungry and eating way too fast. Your partner will say “Σιγά-σιγά παιδάκι μου, δεν θα σου κλέψουν το φαγητό”. Slow down my boy, no one will steal your food.

Example no.4: Gradually

Lastly, you are thinking about the next big business idea and you are getting anxious about what comes next in life. Your friend says “Σιγά-σιγά και όλα θα γίνουν”. Gradually everything will be done.

Live as relaxed as possible

So, what we found out until now is that σιγά-σιγά is a versatile phrase that can be used in almost every situation, explaining a physical or a mental state. You can use it while eating, drinking, traveling, swimming, thinking, or just existing. And this last bit is what makes this phrase unique. Σιγά-σιγά is a way of life.

Life nowadays moves quickly, there is no time to think, and stress is everywhere. Have you ever heard about the Blue Zones? There are 5 areas around the world with the highest percentage of octogenarians in the world. What they all have in common is a stressless life. Not an easy life, just stressless. One of those 5 magical areas is the island of Ikaria in Greece. Life there is slow, someone could say life is passing “σιγά-σιγά”. And this is what most Greeks are trying to find in their hectic lives.

Striving for a more relaxed life is not a new thing and is even documented in our culture through poems and songs. One of Greece’s most influential poets Constanine P. Cavafys wrote the famous poem Ithaka. In it, he says “Αλλά μη βιάζεις το ταξείδι διόλου” meaning “But do not hurry the journey at all”. With it this poem he tries to remind us about the importance of the journey of life and changing our mindset.

Being reminded that you need to relax and slow down can do wonders. No human is a machine, our bodies and minds need the time to recover, think and process the millions of stimuli we live amongst.

Try to slow down because on this trip you will learn and enjoy everything that the world has to offer.

Remember to say σιγά-σιγά

So next time you are in Greece remember to say σιγά-σιγά when you are:

  • Traveling: enjoy the magnificent view and the sun charging your inner battery.
  • Eating a meal: food in Greece is not only about combating our hunger. Talk with your friends and family or make new friends from the table next to you.
  • Drinking coffee: relax and enjoy every sip of your tasteful coffee or drink. No one is coming to get you.
  • Waiting: is your friend a bit late or are you stuck in a queue. Just look around and σιγά-σιγά everything will be solved.
  • Sleeping: yes I know it sounds stupid. But trust me, a lot of us are stressed even during our sleep.
Is σιγά-σιγά a lifestyle that you support? And what are your biggest hurdles toward having a relaxed lifestyle? Please leave us a comment! We are extremely interested to learn what people think since we can all learn from each other

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