Sure, Mykonos is everybody’s who is anybody favorite playground around the world. Yet despite being such an esthete, cosmopolitan destination, the island of the winds retains its unique identity and keeps its time honored customs and traditions. Mykonians are of course descendants of Dionysus, god of wine and merrymaking. Which means that periods of devoutness and restrain are followed by great feasts. This is perhaps most gloriously manifested during the Easter.
In fact this is the best time to experience Mykonos’ one of a kind blend of partying and spirituality; By witnessing first hand the religious celebrations held in the churches, monasteries and holy sites in Mykonos, on the one hand; and partaking in the intense festivities that are the culmination of the Easter period, on the other.
Easter customs in the churches, monasteries and holy sites in Mykonos
It all starts on the first Saturday after Clean Monday, as locals gather in the Monastery of Ano Mera-which was built in 1542 and is one of the most notable churches, monasteries and holy sites of Mykonos- to accompany the procession of the icon of Panagia Tsourliani-the island’s patroness- to Chora. Despite the not insignificant two hour walk, no one is absent from this congregation.The historic painting is reinstated to its original position on Lazarus Saturday, again with locals escorting it on foot. On this day throughout the island’s homes and bakeries lazarakia are prepared: A dough model of a man representing Lazarus who raised from the grave, with his hands crossed and his eyes made from gillyflowers, sugar, raisins and a garland on the head; which is indeed as fetching as it looks.
On Palm Sunday locals and priests from all the churches, monasteries and holy sites of Mykonos gather at the church of Saint Helene on the Castle, Chora’s old cathedral. The sacred icon is paraded around town, while children carry handmade wreaths knitted from palm tree branches.
There is a sweet smell permeating the air, during the Holy Week, as homes and bakeries bake Lambrokouloures : a type of local bun adorned with red eggs, which will subsequently grace the table on Holy Saturday.
Good Friday, according to tradition is the saddest day of them all. Women chant the bewail song of Virgin Mary in various churches, monasteries and holy sites in Mykonos; while bakeries make cross shaped bread which is to be cut only by hand, in a symbolic gesture that signifies deep sorrow.
As dusk falls, the epitaph (the bier of Christ), takes into the streets of every village and town. In Chora there are actually four processions occurring concurrently-and (unofficially) competing for the most impressively flower adorned masterpiece. Make sure you follow the fragrant-as well as musical-parades around the town’s maze like alleys. It is an experience you’ll remember forever. Afterwards have a ceremonial drink at Semeli the Bar and Bao’s Cocktail Bar at Little Venice, as the rather more modern, albeit equally established, tradition mandates!
On Holy Saturday, locals and tourists alike, gather at the midnight mass taking place in the churches, monasteries and holy sites in Mykonos to receive the Holy Light which comes all the way from Jerusalem. Then as fireworks light up the sky,and people embrace each other to confirm that Jesus was indeed resurrected; it is time to rejoice and party.
The traditional Easter Mageiritsa– a tripe soup make from lamb entrails and egg-lemon sauce, which is in fact delicious- is served in the homes and restaurants across the island. Try our delectable version at Thioni, and then hit the town’s bar and clubs as all night revelry is in order.
Easter Sunday caps this Holy Week with an endless festive feast of lamb on the spit roasted outdoors. Onion pie, kopanisti cheese and the famous Mykonian sausage, louza, are also on the menu, to ensure that your fat intake is indeed excessive-but then again who’s to question the wisdom of tradition? Later on, if you have some energy left, around dusk, head to the town’s square to partake in the age old ritual of the burning of Judas along with the locals. Then it is party time as usual…
Easter indeed is hectic in Mykonos, so you’ll need all the stamina and strength that you can muster. With this in mind choose carefully where you stay: you’ll be needing proper rest and loads of pampering, in between festivities, to cope with the frantic schedule. Tucked in a fairly central, yet quiet corner of Chora, Semeli Hotel blends impeccable style with ultimate comfort and indulgence: All rooms and suites have been recently refurbished to reflect the zeitgeist; while Semeli’s exterior and common grounds, have been just redesigned by acclaimed architect Pavlos Ninios. But it is not only a matter of aesthetics (though this is a reason in itself to visit). Semeli’s fresh and exciting, new look is complemented by its unsurpassed level of service and amazing food and drink, to ensure that you’ll only wish for more. We cordially invite you to come and celebrate Easter with us!