Easter in Syros
Where the “sacramental” meets human harmony
If you’re coming to Syros during the Easter period, you’ll find the ideal setting for enjoying the rites of Holy Week, linked to the cult of nature and its rebirth.
Easter is a gorgeous time to visit this island. The evenings are getting lighter, gardens are springing back to life and the days are warmer. Αll the shops are open, the tavern tables are outside in the open air and the capital Ermoupolis is filled with colors and aromas.
Whoever chooses to spend Easter days on this small island in the heart of the Aegean will enjoy a really extraordinary experience. Ιt is one of the few places in the world, where the Orthodox and Catholic communities celebrate Easter together, demonstrating this way their centuries-long harmonious coexistence, every year.
What to do during the Holy Week
On Holy Monday you can taste the traditional delicacies prepared by the women of the island, cookies, tsourekia, traditional sweet goat cheese pie. Magical scents waft through the windows and challenge the senses.
The following day, on Holy Tuesday, one of the most beautiful byzantine hymns, the chant of Kassiani is sung by the mixed choir of Agios Nikolaos in a uniquely eerie atmosphere which impels the congregation to follow the melody faithfully.
On Maundy Thursday, after the 12 Gospels, the girls in the Orthodox churches undertake to decorate the Εpitaph with lemon flowers, lilacs, violets and lilies, while those in Catholic churches decorate the Εpitaph on the morning of Good Friday. The air is musky and conveys a sense of mystery to the heart.
The most impressive moment of Holy Week, however, is the evening of Good Friday. Then all the Εpitaphs meet in the streets of the island and they make up an unexpected experience thanks to their simultaneous circumambulation.
The catholic Εpitaphs start from the temple of San George in Ano Syros and from Evangelistria in Ermoupolis and are accompanied by tunics, sponges and dice hung on poles, symbolizing the Divine Passions. The orthodox Εpitaphs of Agios Nikolaos, of the Assumption of Virgin Mary and of the Transfiguration of the Saviand on the other hand, march together until they all, catholic and orthodox, end up in the Miaouli square.
Right there, in front of the amazing City Hall, Good Friday hymns are sung by the choir and the Municipal Philharmonic, creating a deeply moving atmosphere touching everyone’s souls.
The orthodox monastery of Saint Barbara on the road to the Κini, besides, can offer visitors an alternative option for an absolutely peaceful religious experience. There, visitors can follow the procession of the Εpitaph at sunset time, through picturesque, flower-filled country lanes, living mystical authentic emotions in natural surroundings away from the crowds.
Holy Week culminates with the rite of Resurrection.
On Holy Saturday night the best places for visitors to feel the burst of joy, following the Divine Dramas, is the orthodox church of the Resurrection on Dili hill or the catholic church of San George in Ano Syros. During the doxology and just the moment the “Christ is Risen” is heard, everyone will be impressed by the panoramic view of the city and its mansions sparkling spectacularly under the fireworks celebration and the explosions up in the sky.
For anyone looking for more, there is another original custom that takes place in the temple of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, right after the Resurrection of the Lord. As the priest returns to the temple with the banner of Jesus’ Resurrection, he finds the door closed, so he opens with a loud knock after a brief confrontation with the man behind the temple door. This symbolizes the arrival of Jesus in the Underworld, when He came down to pick out the souls of good people and take them to heaven.
The last day of Passion Week
Finally, on Easter Sunday and from early in the morning, the smells of the skewered lambs and roosters are diffused everywhere. Whether you stay in Ermoupoli or choose one of the beautiful villages of Syros, you will meet hospitable people, who will invite you to their company to taste delicious “mezes” and local wine.
On Sunday afternoon, a good idea to end the day is to attend the liturgy “Esperin of Love” at the church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary and have the chance to admire the work “Theotokos” by the signature of Domenikos Theotokopoulos, (El Greco).
The final rite of the Divine Passion is the “Burning of Judas”. The preservation of the custom to this day expresses the strong need of the people to shake off any kind of betrayal and functions as an exemplary punishment of treason.
The “effigy” of Judas is made with great care over three days, from various materials such as cloth, straw and wood. Firecrackers are placed in his eyes, which will ensure that the “farewell” will be done in the most “appropriate” way. The representation takes place at a high point of the area, offering the people, who watch, an impressive sight.
In the end, if anyone wonders: Is it the mystagogy of the holy days? Is it the breathtaking scenery of the Cycladic island? Is it the hearty warmth of its people? There is only one answer. Τhey are all together and the adorable way that Syros has to merge them and simply offer its visitor an unforgettable Easter holiday.