If you’re visiting Crete during Greek Easter, it is a special time to witness the traditional and touching traditions including the procession of the Epitafios.
Greek Easter in Crete
Easter is the most important Greek Orthodox holiday in Greece. In Greek, Easter is called Pascha, meaning Passover. This part of the holiday represents the eternal passover from death to life and from earth to heaven. During Greek Orthodox Easter, travelers can observe and participate in the most beautiful and traditional of Greek customs. There are many delicious and meaningful Easter foods to try and many rituals to observe.
The Epitafios in Crete
On Good Friday, there are several traditions that represent the drama of the death of Christ. The Epitafios tradition is one of them. This is when an icon of Christ is taken off the cross, wrapped in linen and put it in the epitafios which is known in English as a bier which is a stand on which a casket is placed symbolizing the tomb of Christ.
The Epitafios ceremony typically takes place at night. There’s a procession in a village which includes a band which follows the bier. Member of the band play musical instruments and sing Greek religious hymns. Villagers often light candles. Volunteers proudly carry the bier which is decorated with colorful flowers. The decorations placed on the bier can be quite lavish.
Be sure you join in the procession. It is a good opportunity to take pictures and just feel the special tradition of the moment which always manages to be solemn yet touching.
Epitafios in Rethymnon
No matter where you go in Crete, you will be able to find a local village with a scheduled Epitafios ceremony. Right in our village of Asteri, the Epitafios involves local women who make it their responsibility to decorate the bier themselves. The local priest performs the ceremony in both Asteri and another nearby village called Hamalevri where there is an impressively big village church.
Stay for Easter Weekend in Greece
There is much more to Easter weekend in Greece. On Easter Sunday, churches overflow with people. On Holy Saturday, just before midnight, there is a special candle lighting ceremony which is also touching. Inside the church, the priest offers his flame to others. The flame then passes from one church goer to another until all candles are lit. Be sure to catch the Greek words Christos Anesti which means Christ has risen. You’ll hear bells and even fireworks.
After the late-night resurrection service of the Greek Orthodox Church, there is a special ceremony outside the church where the locals burn the Judah.
If you wish to experience a genuine local religious atmosphere in a wonderful historical Monument, visit Arkadi Monastery.
Would you like to experience the touching traditions of Greek Easter in Crete?