We live in perilous times. Some would say dystopian even. But in times of crisis, the only real antidote is optimism. A happy thought, a brave smile, an impromptu peal of laughter can be just what the doctor ordered. And what can be more uplifting than thinking about your prospective holidays? Which, let’s be pragmatic, they are bound to come, sooner or later.
We don’t know what the situation in your country currently looks like. But let us assure you that at the moment Greece is taking a series of strict but necessary measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic.
When this is all over (or at least harnessed) Paros will still be here, in all of its whitewashed glory. Once again waiting to enchant visitors with its blue and gold beaches, quaint villages, delicious food and drink, quirky customs and traditions and contemporary vibrant lifestyle.
We hope and pray that this too shall pass, as quickly as possible at that. Until then, it is time to hit pause, reflect and regroup. But to also keep dreaming about all the good times ahead. To fuel your imagination, let us just tell you what we would be normally doing in our beautiful island at this time of the year, just before the busy season kicks in.
Easter in Paros: The most magical time of the year
Easter in Paros blends the theatrical with the social and the devout, bringing together communities with a joyfulness that is largely lost in metropolitan centres. As in many other rural areas of Greece, Easter in Paros has managed to preserve its diversity and uniqueness, its many ancient faces and flavours. Indeed Easter in Paros is one of those most memorable occasions, that you’ll want to relive, again and again.
It all starts on Clean Monday with the commencement of the lent. During the next forty-nine days, to test their faith beginning with their diet, the stauncher believers will eat no meat or fish. In fact nothing with blood. Yet, based on locally sourced ingredients combined together in often resourceful ways, lenten delicacies, like fava beans topped with chopped onion and drizzled with olive oil or zaharobaklavas, a healthy kind of dessert made with honey, almonds and cinnamon might as well tempt anyone to give vegetarianism a try.
Easter in Paros: Holy Week Timeline
The precursor of the Holy Week, which signifies the culmination of the Easter period, is the resurrection of Lazarus taking place on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. As per the custom children will pick up flowers and go from door to door singing the hymn of “Lazaros”: “Lazarus, tell us what you saw in Hades where you went? I saw terrors, I saw suffering and pain!”
On Palm Sunday honoring Lazarus’s rise from the dead, churches will be decorated with palm, bay and myrtle. On this day fasting rules relax and fish is allowed in a symbolic gesture: Ichthys means fish in ancient Greek; and this word’s letters stand for Isous Christos, Theou, Yios, Sotir (Jesus Christ, God, Son, Saviour): A secret password for early persecuted Christians.
During the Holy Week, locals will avoid listening to music, whistling or playing games of chance, to avoid tempting fate.
Devoted to Mary Magdalene, Holy Tuesday, brings about a sort of spring cleaning as housewives will wash their houses clean.
On Holy Wednesday, the Orthodox faithful will be anointed with holy oil (efheleo) at the church. They then shall bring some of this oil back home to sprinkle family members and icons with the aid of an oregano sprig. The custom says that these sprigs are imbued with healing powers so they have to be kept for emergencies or placed on the foundations of a new building.
Holy Thursday marks the preparations for the Easter table, though the whole climate remains solemn and subdued. Homemakers will dye eggs red, to signify the blood of Christ and make sweet breads and cookies –tsourekia and lambrokouloura. Late at night, following the reading of the 12 Gospels, at what is the Holy Week’s longest church service, the drama intensifies. Local women will be joining the Virgin Mary in mourning, singing funeral hymns in an all-night vigil. On this night they shall be also decorating the Bier of Christ (Epitaphios) with garlands of white and purple flowers.
Commemorating Christ’s descent from the cross, Good Friday is the most solemn day of them all. Offices and shops are closed, flags are at half-mast and bells ring a funeral knell. Locals partake in the drama by refraining from eating sweet things, for the love of Christ who was given vinegar to drink. Also no one will be handling a hammer or nails.
At noon, the villagers of Prodromos will be offering their traditional chickpea soup (revithada), wine and octopus by the church of Agios Ioannis, in remembrance of their dead.
In the evening Marpissa will host its spectacular annual Easter performance: Although it is a relatively new tradition (about 100 years old), it has lent this village considerable fame: Commencing at around 10:30 pm and led by the faithful dragging the cross, a procession will pass through the myrtle and bay strewn alleyways of Marpissa. Along the way there’ll be a series of tableaux vivants, representing the Life and Passions of Christ: Silent and still theatrical re-enactments carried out by local children and youths narrating the journey of Jesus to the Cross and Redemption.
Similar, though not quite as popular, representations will be also staged in the villages of Marmara, Prodromos, Lefkes and Aspro Chorio on the same night. The deposition of Christ shall be also be celebrated with Byzantine splendor in Paroikia, at its trademark church with the hundred doors, Panagia Ekantotapiliani.
Holy Saturday, brings about a change of mood. Across the island churches will be packed with locals and visitors from 23.00 pm. The service incorporates noisy scenes to scare away demons trying to hinder the resurrection and salvation of mankind. At the stroke of midnight lights are extinguished and the congregation is plunged into darkness, in reference to the darkness that once enveloped Christ as he passed through the underworld. Then there is a faint glimmer of light behind the altar before the priest appears holding aloft a lighted taper and chanting “this is the light of the world”. He then touches his flame to the candle of the nearest worshiper: “Come take the light”, he intones, “Hristos Anesti”– “Christ has risen”– the receptor replies. And so it goes round, this affirmation of the miracle, until the entire church is ablaze with burning candles. The church bells ring, and the sky is lit with fireworks. On the way home worshippers shall make sure to keep their candle’s flame alight. They will be burning the sign of the cross over their front door for good luck. Then it is time to feast. Marking the end of the Easter lent, mageiritsa, a traditional kind of tripe soup with lamb innards and greens, will be served throughout Parian homes and restaurants. The red eggs will be cracked too: The person who succeeds in breaking their companions’ eggs whilst keeping theirs intact will be blessed with good luck throughout the year!
Easter Sunday brings about the culmination of the festivities, with massive family and friends gatherings in every home. Lamb on the spit along with copious amounts of local wine and souma, music and dance are in order. The quaint fishing port of Naoussa, turns into a huge party where everybody is invited. In the same vein Marpissa hosts its customary Festival of Love: A revival of the antique custom of Kounia, also involving eating, drinking and merrymaking.
Easter in Paros is really a spiritual as much as it is a dionysian kind of experience. In light of unprecedented global developments, we are not yet sure whether our beautiful Easter customs and traditions will be honored this year too. But we remain optimistic. All of us at the Yria Boutique Hotel & Spa in Parasporos Bay would like to extend our warmest greetings to all of our friends and guests around the world. We certainly hope to see as many of you as possible in the coming months. Until then stay home, stay safe, stay positive. And never stop dreaming!