The glittering Aegean sea, flower-laden churches and streets on fire, an Easter break to Santorini is a journey into ancient times. As the poppies and mimosa blossom, the island prepares for the most important religious festival of the year. If you’re keen to shake off the last vestiges of winter, it’s an ideal time to book an out of season spring mini break to Santorini and sample an unforgettable experience of the real Greece.
Easter preparations being in earnest on Holy Thursday with the baking of Tsoureki – a traditional sweet egg bread flavoured with orange and the exotic spice Mahlab – ground from the pits of wild cherries. Once the bread’s in the oven, it’s time to indulge in a spot of egg painting. At this time of year, bright red eggs pop up all over Greece. Symbolic of the colour of life as well as representing Christ’s blood, the eggs are ceremonially tapped at midnight on Easter Saturday to signify the breaking open of Christ’s tomb and his subsequent Resurrection.
Holy Friday officially marks the day of Mourning when the icon of Christ is taken off the cross, wrapped in linen and put in the Bier or Epitah to represent Christ’s tomb. At nightfall, the candle-lit bier makes its slow and sombre procession from St Mary’s Church through streets festooned with blazing oil cans to Pyrgos – the island’s highest point. Mournful chanting ricochets round the narrow streets heightening the emotional intensity of the evening as the whole island blazes with fire. Watch the video of the procession here.
On Easter Saturday, a grand feast takes place in Megalochhori central square under a 12 metre high Lazarus cross garnished in flowers. Also worth visiting is the breath-taking Church of Panagia Plastani in Oia, famed for its ornate blue dome and arched windows. (Special services take place throughout Easter Saturday. At midnight the villagers set off for church again for the Rise of Christ service and the spectacular fireworks displays that light up the whole of Santorini’s shoreline.
At the crack of dawn on Easter Sunday, the traditional Easter meal of lamb is prepared on slowly revolving spits. Marinated in a rich herbal concoction of olive oil, lemon, thyme and dill, the lamb is accompanied with roast potatoes, feta cheese and salad. Glistening lamb on spits is a familiar sight around each square as Santorini’s restaurants compete to offer the most mouth-watering Easter Sunday meal. For dessert, try the traditional Melitinia – a traditional, sweet Santorini dessert filled with egg, cheese and mastic.
If you’re looking for a rich cultural experience this Easter, a spring mini beak to Santorini could be just the destination you’re seeking. Just don’t forget to practice your egg cracking in advance.
Have you ever visited Santorini out of season? We would love to hear your experiences.