Greece’s government has kept pandemic restrictions in place through the Easter holiday period ahead of the country reopening for tourism on 15 May.

All Church services functioned under very limited and restrictive seating rules while and priests have had to get tested daily for COVID-19, while police maintained checkpoints along highways to enforce a domestic travel ban.

Even though as of this Monday restaurants and cafes will be allowed to serve customers outdoors having only done takeaway for months, churches will still not allow people to congregate.

The Holy Light arrived in Greece on Holy Saturday, without the head of state honours ceremony. In fact, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Costas Vlasis went to Jerusalem to receive the Holy Light from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre “with due humility, as circumstances demand”.

The Holy Light was transported to Greece on the country’s Prime Minister’s aircraft, but upon its arrival there was no red carpet or military band to welcome it, a common practice used in the past.

Photo: Yorgos Kontarinis/Eurokinissi

Saturday night services started earlier due to curfew restrictions allowing only a limited number of people to access the church grounds in order to receive the Holy Light.

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis addressed Greek citizens hours ahead of the Resurrection, speaking of the sadness of the losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said the country was reaching the end of the crisis.

Greece has been experiencing a surge in infections, hospitalisations and deaths in recent weeks that has strained the health system, despite lockdown-type restrictions being in place since November.

As Greeks throughout the world celebrated Easter and the resurrection, he noted, “we draw strength from our faith, from the victory of life, light and hope.”

While many events in Greece were cancelled or kept on a lid, the island of Corfu kept the Holy Saturday tradition of ‘botides’ alive despite the lockdown.

Hundreds gathered at Spianada Square on Saturday to observe the festivities disregarding pandemic regulations.

The islanders who have decorated their windows with red flowers and badges, throw huge clay pots filled with red ribbons from their windows creating an earthquake like effect, like the one that took place following the resurrection of Jesus from his tomb.