Mary Irvine’s Blog: Big (Good) Friday in Greece

Big Sunday Greece

Easter is the most celebrated time of the year for Greeks. Athens became a ghost city. I was lucky enough to have invitations, every year, to spend Easter all over Greece. Each was memorable in its own way. The following is just one of them.

Big Friday was my favourite part of Easter on Spetses. Crowds gathered at the churches, each person carrying a slender brown candle about fifteen inches long. After dusk and a long two to three hour service the Epitaphios was carried out supported on four long poles and carried by men specially chosen for this honour. If I were of a cynical bent I might suggest that the largest contributions were a determining factor in choosing those so honoured. The Epitaphios was preceded by acolytes swinging censors of smoky aromatic incense or carrying banners and icons of saints. Next the priest in full, very ornate, ceremonial gear. One year I recognised the short, bearded man directly behind the priest as (ex) King Constantine, who pays regular visits to Spetses, a royalist island.

greece easter

Each Epitaphios wended its way down to the main square, named Bouboulina after a woman admiral of repute, where all converged. As each procession approached the town – the only one on the island – all cafes, bars and restaurants switched off their lights and music. The silence was deafening.

At the square there was a short service and the flower-clad tombs were lifted on high in praise/honour. I have heard that, in past times, the Epitaphios would actually be thrown into the sea but this would appear to be an urban myth as I could find no first-hand account.

Everyone then dispersed. The devout escorted the priests and their regalia back to their respective churches. Some thronged the tavernas and restaurants. Others, myself included, repaired to the bars, which usually stayed open till around 6am.

On a serious note I found these processions very atmospheric, almost mediæval, particularly in the smaller places. Apart from Spetses the one I found most spiritual was in the village of Olympia. But that’s for another time . . .

And there was always the joyous Easter Sunday to look forward to!

May, 2024

Mary Irvine's Blog: Neither Here nor There by C. G. Docherty

This section: Mary Irvine: Writer and Philhellene

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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