Today, at midnight, Easter is celebrated by both Orthodox and Catholics. I’ve written in the past about Greek Easter customs, mentioning in passing how, in most places, the celebrations include fireworks.
There is one place, however, that takes this to the next level: Vrontados, on the Greek island of Chios. Here, two rival parishes engage in a most unusual and dangerous Easter tradition that has been taking place quite possibly since the Ottoman era. The churches, Agios Marcos (St. Mark) and Panaghia Ereithiani (Holy Mary on Erythai-the ancient name of Vrontados), sit on opposite hillsides about 400 meters away from one another. Every year, they recreate a yearly “Rocket War”, which is exactly what it sounds like.
According to Atlas Obscura, real cannons were used until 1889 in this annual performance, which no one really seems to know the origin of. Their cannons outlawed and confiscated, the two churches had to resort to homemade bottle rockets that are produced throughout the year for the fiery spectacle that draws a high number of tourists.
Indeed, tourism may just be the only reason the tradition has survived this long. Most residents are understandably not big fans of up to 80,000 unstable fire sticks screaming through the sky and slamming into the bell towers of their churches while they attempt to attend mass inside. As the rocket builders blow off digits and sometimes lose their lives preparing for the battle, the less enthusiastic board up buildings and try to protect as much as possible with wire mesh.
By the next morning, ears are ringing, throats are filled with smoke and sulfur, fires have been put out, and burns have been treated, but a winner is never officially decided on. The sign of victory is the most direct hits afflicted on the rival, but every year both congregations declare themselves the winners, agree to disagree, and promise to settle the score next year.
As for me, watching the Vrontado rocket war is all good and great, but I attended the midnight Mass in a small, quiet monastery that’s a short 5′ walk from my place while Electra and the wee one caught some much-needed Zs. I guess I am getting older!
You think of bunnies as cute, fuzzy, little darlings who like nothing better than hiding Easter eggs, don’t you? Well, back in the Middle Ages they didn’t give you chocolate. They bloody murdered you! And if you don’t believe me, check out these illustrations, courtesy of The Poke, compiled from a variety of Medieval manuscripts.
Happy Easter, everyone!
Killer bunnies, revenge of the hunted! I can just see it in a cinema near you! 😉
Ha ha – I’d watch that 😀
Killer bunnies? Oh – my – gosh! I think I prefer our version of the Easter bunny. A belated, but none – the – less heartfelt, Happy Easter, Nicholas.
Lol – you too 🙂
And yet, every year at easter, when I threaten to kill all the bunnies, people look horrified for some reason. I just can’t get a break.
Those Medieval scribes were on to something.
Or just on something. We may never know…
Lol – that’s what I told Electra when I first saw the illustrations: “I’ll have what they were having” 😀
It’s interesting to read about various traditions. Those bunnies aren’t exactly the Peter Cottontail types.. Yikes.
Yes, they’re more the Monty Pythons types 😀
Monty Python is hilarious. 🙂
They sure do have their moments 😀
Omg, Jesus Christ must be turning over in his grave. Oh wait… He rose from the dead. Still can’t help wondering if nowadays he’d be protesting the egoistic display or joining in the fun! Hope you had a lovely Easter, Nick 🙂 xx
I doubt any of this has much to do with Him. That’s why I attend the midnight Mass at a quiet monastery 🙂
Happy Easter Nicholas. 🙂
You too, Debby 🙂
Thanks Nicholas. 🙂
Killer bunnez! 😀
What a great Easter battle in Chios. Amazingly fun and insane! Loved the clip. It’s now on my bucket list of things to do. 🙂
And killer bunnies? So that’s where Monty Python got the idea! Thanks for the fun.
Oh, right! I wanted to add the famous Pythons sketch video in the post, then I forgot 😀
Well, I hope all the church goers live through Easter, Nicholas. I’ve never before heard of those things. Happy Easter and thanks for sharing. 🙂 — Suzanne
Once again, truth proves stranger than fiction 😀
Killer bunnies? Oh dear, now I’m never going to look at my chocolate bunny in the same way ever again – I think I’ll be too afraid my choccy bunny will take it into it’s sweet head to menace me, as I start nibbling off it’s various (and oh so delicious) body bits 😀 As for rocket wars, sounds rather amazing, not to mention, an interesting way to celebrate Easter – of course, nothing beats eating Hot Cross buns (made by me) – lets just say, once my kids get a hold of their beautiful stickiness, they disappear before you can blink (ok, ever so slight exaggeration here). Great Easter post, Nicholas – Happy Easter to you and your family 🙂
Lol – rockets vs buns. Now there’s a thought 😀
Happy Easter to you and the family, too, Catherine. I expect some of those buns if I ever visit 😀
Just give me advanced warning of your visit and I’ll make sure my Easter Buns are hot out of the oven and ready to serve you and yours 🙂
Happy Easter Nicholas.
To you too, Leslie 🙂
Great Rocket Wars post. Easter blessing to you and family! ? Christine
Thank you! To you too, Christine 🙂
I would love to see that rocket war. From a distance…
Best wishes, and Happy Easter. Pete.
Yes, a very very safe distance 😀
Happy Easter ! ?
Thank you! To you too 🙂
Happy Easter, Nick! Better stock up on carrots for those killer rabbits.
LOL! Charles, love this: “Killer Rabbits – Watership Down.” LOL!
Buy them off – great idea 😀
Happy Easter 🙂
Rocket Wars! Now THAT’S what I’m talking about ! Sounds amazing. Dangerous, but amazing!
I know. I wonder what future anthropologists will think of all this 🙂
And I thought eating too much chocolate was dangerous. Peter Rabbit’s dad was baked in a pie, and to my knowledge the family didn’t attack the MacGregor’s household in revenge, but maybe that’s a Beatrix Potter manuscript that’s been lost.
Lol – I’d pay to read that 😀
Rocket War- Wow. It looks impressive, but the danger makes me uneasy even from here. I assume some safety measure are taken.
Killer Rabbits- Watership Down. That’s all I’m going to say.
You know, I’ve never read that. I probably will now, thanks to the wee one, of course.
I actually meant the animated movie. Horrifying stuff.
Maybe stick to ‘Benjamin Bunny’ (Beatrix Potter) for the wee one. But ‘Watership Down’ is amazing for parents.
Lol – good point 😀