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 >  Greek culture  >  Greeks gear up for Easter

Greeks gear up for Easter

- by Andy Cornish

Thousands of holidaymakers will be making their way to the Greek Islands to enjoy the traditional Easter celebrations that are famed throughout the world.

Holiday website firms like Trivago are reporting a surge in visitor numbers booking Easter holiday breaks to Greece this year , especially from the British and the Italians.

Many Europeans vote Greece their top holiday destination for Easter including Poles, Spanish and Austrians according to the holiday website.

Although the Italian capital of Rome tops the list of Easter holiday destinations, the Greek Islands still rank high in the top ten with the island of Corfu the main choice for visitors.

Prices of hotel rooms tend to rise with demand of course and Corfu is no exception. A Trivago survey found the price of hotel rooms over Easter shoot up an average 22% to €127 euros compared to just &ero;104 last year.

But these kinds of price rises are not widespread and there is a wide variation in prices across the Greek islands. Even the capital city of Athens has seen only a moderate rise in hotel room prices this year – up just 12% on last year to €90.

Easter celebrations form a big part of Greek Island culture and nowhere are traditional customs kept more alive than on the islands where it is a time of year to not only celebrate the Christian religion but also to welcome the spring.

Each of the island groups has its own special way of celebrating Easter. While some have spectacular displays and street parties, others are more relaxed.

The Ionian island of Corfu is especially noted for its traditional Easter customs some of which are not found anywhere else including the smashing of clay jugs. Easter on Corfu is a major holiday with parades of the relics of the island's patron saint Agios Spiridon.

On Zakynthos, the islanders join a Good Friday procession that goes around Zante town with the crucified Christ and at the church of Agios Nicolaos white doves are released on the first stroke of the bells announcing the Resurrection.

In nearby Lefkas, Good Friday processions gather in the central square for performances by local orchestras.

On Mykonos, in the Cyclades, the women will whitewash their houses and make bread in the shape of people. On Good Friday the islanders carry a mock-up of Christ's coffin through the streets and Holy Saturday Easter is celebrated in the small Paleokastro monastery.

On the island of Santorini locals make a huge wooden cross and decorate it with flowers. On the Saturday after Easter everyone goes home from church with a red-coloured egg and eat a traditional soup with lamb called 'sgardoumia'.

On Sunday, many villages hold a 'People's Court' where a human effigy made of rags is condemned to death, hanged and burned by the local, a little like our own Guy Fawkes.

On Sifnos islanders make traditional bread rolls in the shape of 'Easter birds' and decorate them with red eggs before a feast of Easter roast lamb with dill and red wine.

On the island of Crete, alongside the widespread custom of baking bread, the men will make a wooden effigy of Judas and parade it around the streets. On Holy Saturday, locals set the dummy on fire and set off fireworks.

Easter is celebrate in some style in the Dodecanese islands. In the north the island of Patmos is where St John wrote the Book of Revelation and on Palm Sunday heavily decorated churches offer festive meals as well as religious services.

On Kalymnos processions from ten parishes meet in the central square and compete for the best decorations while on Easter Sunday noisy fireworks erupt from the two hills that rise behind the port.

Easter celebrations across the Greek Island are unique and holiday visitors will find themselves calle don to join in the celebrations no matter where they are.