Green landscapes, emerald waters, spring scents and traditional flavors. These are some of the elements that compose the Easter in Skopelos. With its medieval monasteries and countless churches, Skopelos offers many options to its visitors during these holy days. The Monastery of Evangelistria is a distinguished monastery, renovated in 1712 and famous for its panoramic view. The rich nature and the genuine character of Skopelos island make Easter a lifetime experience.
Easter Customs and Traditions on Skopelos Island
Lazarus Saturday in Skopelos
Easter customs in Skopelos start on Lazarus Saturday. On that day, housewives bake small man-shaped cookies, the “Lazarakia”, with nutmeg for eyes and crossed arms. These cookies are offered to the children of the family by their mothers and grandmothers. In turn, the children take the Lazarakia and go around the houses of the island singing. The children also make a rag doll of Lazarus and carry it around in the alleys.
Palm Sunday marks the first day of Holy Week. Palm Sunday is celebrated by the blessing and distribution of palm branches, representing the palm branches which the crowd scattered in front of Jesus Christ as He rode into Jerusalem. Everyone goes to church to get a palm branch by the priest. Then, they bring those branches to their house as a blessing. Also, mothers-in-law take palm branches from the church and tie jewelry on them with a ribbon for their daughters-in-law. On this day, everyone on the island eats fish.
Holy Thursday is the day of Holy Communion. From early in the morning people go to church to commune before the Holy Passion. According to tradition, Greeks dye hard-boiled eggs in red color and prepare Easter cookies- or “Koulourakia” in Greek. In the evening, the reading of the Twelve Gospels is conducted in the 4 parish churches of Chora Skopelos. The young people of Glossa make a cross out of wood, decorate it with violets and go around the alleys of the village, chanting “Hail Gate”.
After 65 years, in the beautiful village of Glossa, the “Cultural Association of Glossa” revived the old custom of “Haira Pyl” (“Χαίρα Πυλ” in Greek). In contrast to many other parts in Greece, where on the day of Holy Thursday children chant “Today the sky is black, today is a black day”, in Glossa “Haira Pyl” dominates instead. As reported by the Association, “On the morning of Holy Thursday, the children of the village wander around, not in groups as in carols, but in one group holding a wooden cross decorated with flowers. They go around the village chanting “Haira Pyl”, without any melody and without knocking on doors. The housewives go out and offer the children red eggs.
On Holy Friday, a representation of the earthquake that the Gospels describe takes place in all the churches of the island. Everyone knocks on the wooden pews inside the church and the loud noise represents the sound of the earthquake. Until the afternoon, the Epitaph is decorated in every parish of Skopelos.
At night, the four Epitaphs of Chora Skopelos go out in an established order. First, the Epitaph of “Christ“, then the Epitaph of “Ai Giannis“, then the Epitaph of “Panagia” and lastly the Epitaph of “Faneromeni“. With candles and lanterns in hand, believers follow the procession, passing through the other three parishes to end up together on the coastal road of the Chora port. After the procession, the doors of the churches close and the “Arate Pylas” is chanted. This custom represents the entry of Jesus Christ into Hades.
Holy Saturday is a day of joy throughout the island. Delicious Easter buns and cookies are shared all day long among loved ones. The mass on Holy Saturday night is a truly unique experience. The priest comes out of the chancel holding the holy fire and shares it with the enthusiastic believers. People pass the fire to each other, the atmosphere becomes festive and the sky is lit with fireworks. Upon returning home, believers form a cross over their house doors and the traditional dinner of ‘Mageiritsa’ -a Greek Easter soup made of lamb intestines and lettuce- is served, as the family gathers around the table to enjoy their first meat-based meal after Lent.
A day of love, joy and fun. On Easter Sunday, the countryside of the island is filled with feasts and songs. The locals go to their “huts” in the countryside, or stay at home, where they masterfully grill local lamb or goat and welcome passers-by. With your car you can cross the island from one end to the other and capture these traditional scenes. A walk in the countryside is also recommended. The weather is usually sunny and relatively warm with cool evenings. If you plan on being in Skopelos during Easter, consider yourself lucky; this is something you should experience at least once in your lifetime!
Skopelos welcomes those who choose to live a unique Easter in nature and to experience the unique customs and traditions of Skopelos Island. “Spyrou Skopelos Experience” offers an Accommodation and Entertainment Package for Easter 2021 at its Rigas Hotel Skopelos.