Dimitris Gavras

Greek Orthodox Easter is probably the biggest celebration of the year for most Greeks, with a lot of special traditions and family gatherings.  So, how do Greeks celebrate Easter?

If you can not be in Naxos during Easter, but you are curious, then read below what Greek Easter is about

40 days before Easter – fasting period

The preparations for the Greek Easter actually start from “Kathara Devtera” (Clean Monday) onward. All Greeks celebrate the national holiday “Kathara Devtera”, which is the last day of carnival and the first day of the so-called “fasting period”.
Take a look at the video, to get an idea what are the typical foods for celebrating Kathara Devtera

From that day onward till Easter people might greet you with “kali sarrakosti” (We wish you a nice 40 days!), since there are 40 days till the “holy week” (the week before Easter Sunday).

The “Holy Week”

The week before Easter Sunday, the Holy Week, begins on Palm Sunday.
Greek Easter is a very special and holy time indeed! Even for non-religious Greeks or foreigners, the atmosphere is nice and it is a part of the Greek culture and traditions.

There are church services everyday commemorating the last week in the life of Jesus Christ. The evening services are the most attended, except for Wednesday when the Service of the Holy Unction is held in the afternoon. On Thursday morning the service commemorates the Last Supper and the Betrayal of Christ.
This is the day that the hard-boiled eggs are dyed red, signifying the blood of Christ, and the Easter bread, called tsoureki, is baked.
The evening service on Thursday is a long one and features twelve gospel readings.

Meanwhile, people are shopping for their Easter gifts and buying their lambs of all sizes for Easter Sunday. Athenians who have family-connections to the islands and villages on the mainland are preparing to leave the city, as well as people with no family ties!

Good Friday

On Good Friday, the figure of Christ is taken down from the cross. The epitaphios , decorated with flowers by the girls through the night, is brought into the church. The bells of the church can be heard all over and all the flags in Greece are lowered to half-mast. In the evening a “funeral service” is held and at about 9pm the epitaphios is taken from the church and carried through the streets in a procession. Now everybody follows the epithaphios while carrying “beige” candles.

On Good Friday the candlelit funeral procession takes place in three churches (Mitropoli, Bantanesa, Agios Nikodimos) around 20.00-21.00 h.

The procession takes place all over the town, while (some) people also sing and afterwards the different “epitaphia” from various churches, are coming together on the main square

During the whole week till Saturday evening you can greet each other with the usual “Xronia Polla”, but also with “Kalo Pasxa” (Happy Easter) or otherwise “Kali Anastasi”. Just be careful when you want to translate the latter into English. (a nice Greek man wanted to translate it for some students in English and said: “Have a nice erection!” ( instead of “resurrection”!).

Easter Saturday

On Saturday the Orthodox Patriarch breaks the seal of the door of the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and emerges with the Holy Fire, which is then flown by Aegean or Olympic Airways, accompanied by high-ranking priests and government officials to Athens airport where it is met by an honor guard to the small church of Agia Anargyroi in Plaka (center Athens). From there the light is distributed to churches all over Attika and the rest of Greece.

At 11pm on Saturday night pretty much the entire Naxos is in church. The lights are turned off at midnight and the priest announces that Christ has arisen from the dead as candles (this day only white candles!) are lit. The tiny glow at the front of the church grows and soon the whole room is illuminated by the light of everyone’s candles. Exactly at midnight the priest sings the Paschal hymn:

“Christ has risen from the dead and in so doing has trampled on death and to those in the tombs he has given life”.
The church bells ring in celebration, fireworks go off, ships sound their sirens and the light and sound makes any European New Year celebration seem tame in comparison! People greet each other happily with the words Christos Anesti (Christ has risen) which is replied to with Alithos Anesti (Truly He has arisen).

Gunshots, dynamite and fireworks will be going on for the next 3 hours or more, with every year blowing off a finger or two! Just be careful!

Easter Sunday

Easter day, Sunday,  is most people’s favorite day of the year. A lamb is roasted (or baked in the oven) and friends and families get together to eat, drink, talk and dance. And this is what we plan to do as well in Natura Villas, with family and friends.

So Greek Easter Sunday means eating Greek lamb, goat, kokoretsi, wine, tsoureki bread and cracking red eggs.

”If paradise was on Earth, it would be here,” wrote Nikos Kazantzakis, Greece’s foremost 20th century writer, about the short spell he spent as a teenager in Naxos’s fertile valley of Eggares.

The nature of Naxos talks to the heart of every artist with its authenticity, richness and simplicity. The island is marked by great variety:

  • Mountains with ravines, caves and gullies shade verdant valleys with olive, fig, orange, lemon trees and vineyards, abundant waters.
  • The valleys end at smooth, sandy beaches adorned with juniper and tamarisk trees; villages are surrounded by fields and vegetable gardens; migratory birds find refuge on trees, while wild pigeons and swifts in the inaccessible coastal rocks.
  • Protected biotopes with rare fauna and flora complete the mosaic of an island that offers the visitor all the lavish gifts of nature.
  • But the seabed around Naxos also offers another, exciting world, with marine ecosystems of astounding beauty, huge variety, reefs and rocks full of life, meadows of Posidonia oceanica with colorful plates and reefs.

Just pick your route, either on or off shore, and abandon yourself to the magic of Naxos’s nature. The thrill is there throughout the year.

Geomorphology

Naxos has an area of 430sq.km and a coastline of 148km. It is a mostly mountainous island, with a widely alternating landscape (mountaintops, torrents, gorges and caves, predominantly encountered in the northwestern, northeastern and southeastern sections of the island). The flat areas (basins, plateaus, valleys) are found in the central and southwestern parts. The greatest part of the island’s coastline is laced by pretty beaches, while almost the entire western coast is an endless string of long, sandy beaches. Naxos’s geological structure mainly consists of stone transformed into marble, emery, slate e.t.c.. The western section is dominated by granite, to which the beaches owe their formation. The significant alternations in geomorphology and the climatic conditions of the hinterland make Naxos a unique island which combines the rarity of the Cycladic landscape with the beauty of mainland Greece.

Biotopes – wetlands

Starting from the sea zone and the coastline, then crossing the lowland areas and ending on the hills and uplands, a visitor comes across a spate of natural habitats unlikely to be found in on any other Cycladic island.

  • The open sea and the coastal zone
  • The steep, rocky coastline – particularly on the eastern side.
  • The sandy and pebbly beaches and the sand dunes with juniper trees in southwestern Naxos.
  • The coastal, seasonal wetlands, such as the lagoon of Alyki

Mount Zas and its cave

The summit of Mount Zas, which rises southeast of the village of Filoti, is the highest peak in the entire Cyclades region, with an elevation of 1,003m. According to mythology, god Zeus spent his childhood years here and an eagle was said to have offered him the thunderbolt at the top of this mountain which subsequently helped him reign supreme on Mountain Olympus. Besides its mythological interest, Mount Zas is endowed with wonderful natural beauty -a great place for trekking through old and very scenic routes.

Routsouna waterfall

Two important streams that start from the massifs of Koronos and Fanari run north and south of Keramoti respectively.

The two rivers converge at the western end of Keramoti, at a point named Dipotamata. Continuing its flow through rocks and rich vegetation, the stream unites with a creek running from Kanafa to create the Routsouna waterfall, a spectacular 20m drop. A plane tree is rooted at its base, while a lake of considerable depth offers a delightful swimming basin for Keramoti’s youngsters during the summer months. From here, the water continues its flow all the way to the fields at Eggares and irrigates the area before reaching the sea, at Ammitis beach.

The area’s water, which maintains its flow even during the summer months, creates an enchanting verdant locale that differs greatly from standard Cycladic settings. A uniquely beautiful path, starting near the old bridge of Keramoti, leads to the waterfall.

Naxos marble

Naxos’s white marble has been one of the island’s most important natural resources since antiquity. It is mostly found on the western section of the island and its quality rivaled the marbles of any other origin.

Quarries are seen in various locations – the most important being the one near the village of Kynidaros, which has an imposing presence and makes for a lunar landscape that extends from the mountain side to the main road. Marble in antiquity was the exclusive material used in sculpture and its significance is shown by the island’s ancient quarries (Flerio, Melanes, Apollonas). Splendid examples of the use of marble were the ancient sanctuaries of the Temple of Apollo, of Gyroulas at Sagri and of Dionysus at Yria. The fact that the first marble statue of a large size was sculpted on Naxos in 660 BC (Kouros) signifies the importance of the art of marble sculpture on the island, which is retained to this day. Examples of this art can be admired on various buildings dispersed throughout the island, both ancient and modern.

Emery

Emery, a very hard type of rock with important industrial uses as an abrasive and burnishing agent, is found in abundance on the slopes of Mt. Amomaxis of Naxos, between the villages of Koronos and Apiranthos.

It is dark gray or black in color and the superior quality of Naxos emery (smirigli in the local dialect) has been known since antiquity. Virtually the sum of emery deposits that can be mined in Greece are found on the island. The mining of emery was a hazardous occupation but also a significant factor in the survival of the inhabitants of the villages in the Naxos uplands.

The biggest Cycladic island has something for everyone. Whether you’re a beach lover, a food addict or you’re a culture enthusiast, Naxos has you covered. You know you’ve arrived when you see the popular and iconic Portara, the remains of an ancient temple, which lies on Palatia island overlooking the sea. It’s a beautiful place and becomes even more magical during sunset.

The beaches

Naxos has amazing beaches with crystal clear waters! Plaka and Mikri Vigla should be on your list; golden sand and good vibes. Agios Prokopios is also worth a visit, but be prepared for a possible smell, coming from the salt evaporation ponds.

If you prefer something ‘wilder’ and a more imposing scenery, then head to Hawaii beach. Access can be a bit tough but the scenery is breathtaking!

There are also numerous beaches near Apiranthos, which you can explore. One of them is Psilli Ammos.

You now know a few things about us and you can ask for more, for sure, so you could freely decide whether you want to stay with us and be friends or not, without any offense of course

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Gastronomic adventures

Naxos is a blood relative to good food. It’s known for its popular potatoes and delicious cheese. One of the best places to eat at is ‘Axiotissa’ but you have to make reservations in advance. It’s a tavern in high demand and for a good reason; its food is mouthwatering! It has the best potatoes (chips), amazing meat options and tasty starters.

One more top restaurant that you need to visit is ‘Nissaki’. Make sure to order octopus salad and pasta.

For delicious fish bites go to ‘Meze2’ in Chora (the main town). Locals will suggest ordering the little fish called ‘gouna’. Listentothem!

Overall, Naxos offers excellent honey, citrus, and cheese. You must try the local graviera with truffle. Heaven!

The ones with the sweet tooth will find their own paradise in Waffle House; delicious ice cream and waffles.

And the night goes on in Naxos. For drinks, I strongly recommend bar 52 and Swing. Nevertheless, there are many bars around Chora, I am sure you will find the one you love.

Picturesque Villages

Chalki and Apiranthos (or Aperathos) are two more reasons why you will fall deeply in love with Naxos. Cute villages, with narrow cobblestone streets and lovely corners.

Chalki is known for its delicious ‘galaktoboureko’ and ‘keftedes’ (meatballs). Apiranthos is the jewel of Naxos. It manages to keep its authenticity, whilst its architecture and stone-built houses will open the door to the old times. Don’t miss having coffee or food at one of the cafes that overlooks the green valley.

Lastly, one morning and before you head to the beach, enjoy a coffee under the big plane tree of Damarionas village.

Archaeological interest

If you are a traveler with culture interests, then I am sure you will find the list below useful:

  1. The aforementioned Portara, which is the remains from Apollon’s Temple
  2. Dimitra’s Temple in Sangri is of importance, as it offers useful details on various temples’ architecture
  3. Kouros and Kori Melanon
  4. Kouros of Apollon
  5. Archaeological Museum of Apiranthos
  6. Venetial Museum of Naxos

Naxos can be very expensive during high season and in case you want to take your car to Chora, you will need at least 30 minutes to find a parking spot.

But this Cycladic island is so enchanting, it will really steal your heart. I have already visited three times and why not, once more?