Easter on Thasos
The best time on Thasos is the time around Easter. It is because of the beautiful weather, holiday atmosphere and the arrival of the first tourists. Somehow everything seems merrier, the sea is “more blue”, the people are happier...
This year, an unusually great number of tourists came to Thasos for Easter. Most of them were Greek and Romanian. All of the cafés and restaurants were open, even the ones that didn’t plan to open before Easter changed their mind when they saw how many tourists came to the island.
The weather was nice, so many were swimming. I thought about organizing a bus from Serbia next year.
The last week of fasting, the so called “awful week” is very important to the islanders. Everyone tries to go to church as often as they can, everyone fasts and prays to God. On Thursday everyone receives their communion in order to “attend” the Last Supper alongside Christ and his disciples.
Great Friday is the saddest day, and people are in church almost the whole day. It is the only day of the year when there is no liturgy, only The New Testament is read throughout the day. There is not a sound or a laugh in or in front of the church. At the moment Christ died, the drapes tore themselves at the Jerusalem temple and all bells broke. That is why there are no bells on Great Friday, only wooden rattles. Most of the people try to wear black that day and think about what Christ endured for us, being whipped, tortured and finally crucified. On Friday night there is a symbolical detaching of Jesus’ body from the cross and placing it in a grave. That is when everyone leaves the church and heads for the symbolical funeral of Christ. The most influential people lead the procession, with doctors, professors and lawyers at the front, singing. Behind them is the Christ’s body covered in flowers, and then thousands of people follow with candles in their hands. They stop at every intersection, and people religiously pass under the table which represents the pedestal for Christ’s body. The people who cannot walk due to illness are on the terraces. Usually they are old people with candles in their hands. For me that detail is very moving. As the procession goes through the town, all of the lights in all of the houses are lit and the music is turned off in all of the restaurants, cafés… There is not a person who is not on the street, from babies to old people, those who are ill, immobile… From the return to the church until Saturday night, people kiss the cover Christ’s body was wrapped in… At midnight between Great Saturday and Sunday people gather in front of the churches and monasteries. Precisely at midnight, there is a big firework and then the merry Easter liturgy starts. People kiss each other and say: "Hristo anesti"...
This year, for Christ’s resurrection, we were at the monastery of St. Archangel Michael. Due to a large number of people, a new, bigger, still unfinished church had been open. There were really a lot of people. At midnight, the priests and vestals came onto the balcony in front of the church and started the service. Being in a monastery for Easter is a special experience.
Upon returning from the monastery each family has a type of pluck soup for their meal which is made only on the day of Easter. It is called “magirica” and it is very demanding to prepare. Sunday is the day for family gathering. At least one meal is served with the presence of all the family members. A lamb or a goat kid is put on the spit from the early morning in order for lunch to be served around 15 h.
A week before Easter, a slaughterhouse is opened for business above Limenaria, and during those five days a couple of thousands of lambs and goat kids are slaughtered.
Monday is known for the miraculous icon of St. Archangel Michael being taken from Teologos to the monastery of St. Archangel. People start from Teologos at 14 h. This year there were 300 people who took the icon from Teologos to the monastery on foot. The road from Teologos to the monastery is very difficult, steep with big climbs and it takes around 4 hours to get there. “The travelers” are met at the monastery with lunch, later and evening service and the next day they set off for Teologos first thing in the morning. A walk of that length done by the elders, and especially the young ones, shows their true belief. The icon they carry is actually the one that saved the monastery from the fire. Actually, the fire in the 90-s, that I have previously mentioned, got very close to the monastery, at which point vestals took the icon and stood with it in front of the fire, which momentarily withdrew.