Easter in Lesvos is one of the biggest holidays of the year. Traditions have been passed to the locals from their ancestors and still keep alive. It is the ideal opportunity to get to know this authentic Greek island and take part in its unique traditions.
So, let’s get to know them!
The descent of Christ to Hades
One of the most impressive customs in Lesvos is the representation of the underworld gates breaking. According to tradition, before his resurrection, Christ descended to Hades to give eternal life to the dead.
On Holy Saturday midnight, a chanter closes the main gates of the church, so that the priest and the rest of the people stay outside, in the yard. Then, in order to open the gates of the temple, a dialogue takes place between the priest, who represents Christ, and the chanter, who represents Hades.
When the gate finally opens, the priest and the rest of the people walk into the temple, chanting loudly “Christ has Risen”. The feeling of this custom is indescribable and one must experience it to understand its unique power.
The Swings (“Kounia”)
The ancient custom of “Kounia” is celebrated until these days in many of Lesvos’s villages. Young people create swings in each neighborhood using ropes, which they tie to the branches of the trees.
Then, they swing the passers-by and all together sing cheerful traditional songs “of the swing”. Cookies and flowers are given as gifts to the young people. The flowers are used to decorate the swings. This custom is very popular among all island residents, but especially among young children.
Traditional Easter Foods
The traditional Easter foods of Lesvos are some of the best in Greece!
Every household, on the Saturday of Lazarus, bakes the famous Easter cookies “Lazarakia”, of which the smell spreads to every alley of the island!
On Holy Thursday it is customary to paint the eggs red and decorate them with flower drawings, while at the same time baking a traditional sweet bread, named Tsoureki.
On Easter Day, the locals cook a special, traditional meal, which is lamb filled with rice, lamp liver or minced meat, and spices.
“The descent of Christ to Hades” source:
Swings: Photo by Stratis Polydoros Anastaselis