For most Greek Orthodox Christians, the most popular time to be in Church is on the night of Holy Saturday, when the Easter Divine Liturgy culminates in celebratory chanting and fireworks.
But for the parishioners of the Church of Panagia Evangelistria in Chios, nothing beats the Holy Saturday morning liturgy, when the ‘first announcement’ of the Holy Resurrection is celebrated, with the customary tossing of laurels to the parishioners. This is largely due to the colourful personality of local vicar, Father Christophoros Gourlis, who is known for his enthusiastic performance of the custom.
This time round, a crew from Australia flew in to document the event, and Father Christoforos did not disappoint. After the reading of the Epistle, he stormed out of the Holy Sanctuary, leaping towards the congregation and throwing around bunches of laurels, while the other members of the church were shaking the chandeliers and making loud banging noises to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.
Smart phones in hand, churchgoers made sure to record the performance and share it through social media, making it viral in no time.
But the event was not all flash and joy. Father Christoforos took time to remind the congregation of the two soldiers who remain in captivity in Turkey and asked all present to join him in a solemn prayer.
THROWING CLAY JUGS IN CORFU
The crew filming Father Christoforos in Chios was not the only Australian media outlet focusing in Greek Easter customs.The ABC website run a feature story on one of the country’s most iconic traditions – the throwing of water-filled clay jugs in Corfu.
The event takes place on Holy Saturday, after the first announcement of the Holy Resurrection, in the centre of Corfu town, where families gather in their balconies and throw red clay jugs, filled with water down to the streets, which are roaring with the thunderous sound of collective clay-breaking.
Thousands of tourists gather each year to observe this tradition and get sprayed with water and shards of broken clay. Some even take home pieces of the broken jugs, as they are considered to bring good luck.
The exact origin of the custom is not known. Some think it dates back to Ancient Greece, though most believe that it hails from the days of Venetian occupation and stems from the Venetian custom of throwing away old things on New Year’s eve.