Easter is one of the most important festivals in the Greek Orthodox Church’s calender and when we arrived in Paphos the town was already gearing up for it. At every roundabout there were decorations like these,
with huge Easter chickens, eggs and bunnies. Lots of the shops were selling special Easter candles, more on those later.
Outside the main Orthodox Church in the resort itself, Panaya Theoskepasti, we discovered this effigy of Judas Iscariot waiting to be burnt at the stake on Easter Saturday. I thought was an interesting parallel with the pagan practice of burning an effigy of the dead Winter King at around this time of year to mark the passing of the Spring Equinox.
On Good Friday after the service at Panaya Theoskepasti an icon of Christ was paraded enthusiastically around the town, but the major event took place on the Saturday.
On Saturday many of the bars and restaurants put out baskets of hard boiled eggs with red died shells, symbolising the blood of Christ
No doubt this practice is assimilated from earlier religious practices to do with rebirth at this time of year. For example the Zoroastrian Persians, who ruled much of the middle east including Cyprus, painted eggs for Nowrooze, their new year celebration that fell at the Spring Equinox. Eastern church lore claims that the egg shells miraculously turned red when Mary Magdalene brought hard boiled eggs to the women at the tomb of Jesus and they beheld the newly risen Christ.
Saturday evening came and the excitement in the air was palpable. As it got dark people began gathering outside Panaya Theoskepasti with their candles, to listen to the service being broadcast from within. By the time we arrived, close on midnight, poor old Judas had been burning for some time. The chanting of the priests over the load speakers was quite beautiful though and the icon of Christ, decorated with flowers, on the church steps was illuminated.
As the Midnight hour passed the doors of the church opened and the priests symbolically brought forth the light of the resurrected Christ to the world,
which was then passed from one candle to another creating a river of light that spread down from the church into the street and into the wider world, accompanied by the ringing of the church bells and the explosions of home made fireworks.
Even as a confirmed non-believer it was a great experience and I’d like to thank the lovely lady who handed me a candle so that I could participate in it.