Easter festivities in Vrontados
Vrontados: Ηere Easter is a BLAST!
Apart from being the Island of Aromas in the Northeastern Aegean, Chios is well known for the magnificent Easter festivities too.
The scenic picture of ship owners’ mansions with exquisite flower garden designs, peaceful little ports with colourful boats, and picturesque windmills by the sea, dramatically changes after the Resurrection mass. On the night of the Holy Saturday the villagers of Vrontados are ready to set the night on fire! A rocket war breaks out here, which dates back to the age of the Turkish occupation (15th-19th centuries) and turns this village into a virtual battlefield. The conflict is between the Panagoussians (which would be something like the “Madonnians”), i.e. the parishioners of Panagia in Erithiani (=Madonna in Erithiani), and the Aghiomarkoussians (Saintmarkians), i.e. the parishioners of Saint Mark, and both of theirs rockets aim at the dome and the emblem of the church of their rivals.
The preparation for this bloodless “war” lasts for months and the improvised rockets, made of coal, sulphur and nitre, are put on wooden stands ready for the “gunners of Chios” to fire them. Teasing and challenging each other alternate with test shots until the sound of a horn signals “fire”, late at night. And although “warriors” take a break to let people attend the liturgy of the Resurrection, they release the storm of fire right after midnight. The spring night sky lights upas tongues of fire and golden orbits of rockets speed to their targets in bangs and thunders. The dark of the night fuses into the red of the cross-fire, and thousands of locals and visitors marvel at this fascinating and unique-in-the-world sky spectacle.
The following day, the beautiful village of Vrontados finds again its peaceful self. The sticks left from the launched rockets around each church will be counted, and the winner will be finally announced. But whoever that is, the villagers bury the hatchet until next year’s Easter Saturday. After all, love and friendship always conquer all!