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Easter Astypalea

Easter at Astypalea

Visiting Astypalea for your Easter holidays will fill your soul with the pleasures of its beauty in land, sea and blue sky!

Let your soul relax in the religious devoutness of the island while all your senses are enraptured with the spring preparations that nature offers so generously!

And there is no exaggerating when we say that Astypalea is "the butterfly of the Aegean" dressed in its spring colours. Unbelievable for such a rocky terrain and mountain range but the blossoming of the thyme, sage and lentiscus is breathtaking.The yellow and white daisies, purple and red wild flowers overwhelming the streets and gardens before entering the castle, which stands in triumph, also decorating the churches and ruins.And all so perfectly wrapped with the beautiful blue sky and the deep blue sea.Thankful for living this uniqueness you feel the urge to follow the islanders in all sorts of customs and habits dictating the "Holy days of Easter".

A week before Easter "Saturday of Lazarus" the day starts with the sweet smell of cinnamon and cloves unfolding in the air in the streets mingling in with the salty seashore smell. Responsible for this smell is the "Lazarakia" which is fresh dough with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg given the shape of Lazarus' face and of course this is the sweet eaten during the entire fasting Holy week.

As in every part of Greece, the Holy days are special as we all feel the need for our soul to participate in the sufferings of the Lord, but what makes our island unique is as you are watching the sun set at that moment as it touches the sea the church bell of our Lady Portaitissa rings in mourning calling on its followers.

There in front of the wooden carved and golden inlaid temple Father Eysevios preaches and emotionally devoted to the Lords sufferings shares faithful devotion, awe and reverence as he reads out so vividly and clearly the words of the gospel as if you were present during the Lords Passions. It is the anguish of Father Eysevios soul that brings tears to your eyes as the body of Christ is carried around on a bier as each follower participates by holding a lit candle and a prayer book chanting "I(ei) zoi en tafo"

On Maundy Thursday after church, all the housewives paint their eggs red and make Christopsomo(Christ's bread) and Lambrokouloures which will be decorated with red eggs as no work is done on Good Friday! Also no nails are hammered as the only nails to be hammered are the ones used to crucify Christ. Furthermore only water is consumed on this day and there is a custom that says you should not wash your hair on Good Friday as you will have headaches all through the year!

On Good Friday as the church bells ring in mourning you must kneel and praise to three epitaphs in three different churches by the time Christ is depositioned from his cross.At night after the praise the epitaph from the church of the Virgin Mary of Portaitissa is taken out for a procession around the castle.

The wooden carved epitaph decorated in beautiful wild flowers is followed by everyone holding a lit candle in their hands accompanied by the icons of the Virgin Mary, St John and other saints dressed in mourning. In the narrow streets echoes the chanting of "O glyki mou aear" leading to the central square of the village which meets up with the epitaph from St Nicholas. There the epitaphs are held up high so that the followers may pass under it, pray and kiss the cross and icons.

On Holy Saturday at noon, after the first resurrection the church bells ring and the housewives begin preparing the "Lambriano"(the lamb to be roasted), "Kitrinokouloura"(yellow cookies) with the fragrant of saffron and the "Lambropites"(pies) for the day of Easter. The lamb will be filled, sewed up and wrapped in wax paper to be laid on vine twigs in a pan. In the afternoon fires are lit in the outdoor ovens so that the lamb may bake all night in patience as Easter Sunday approaches. At midnight the church bells ring joyfully all over the island spreading the message of Love and Optimism rising along with the fireworks from the Virgin Mary's Church dome to the sky. Father Eysevios bangs on the church door so that the people will open it and he may spread the Holy light and word of faith and perseverance saying "Christos Anesti".

Easter Sunday is the day of Love and Joy. After the morning service the day is devoted to the burning of Judas below the castle and of course the feast with the special taste of the Lambriano and the cracking of the red eggs hitting top with top and bottom with bottom until one egg is left unbroken. All over the island the feast is celebrated with the sweet sounds of the violin and lute imitating the sounds of the sea waves.

Happy Easter!!!