Milos in Easter puts on its best festive “dress”, and welcomes me with images and experiences that I will not encounter during any other period of the year. The poppies, daisies and other wild flowers put together a colorful carpet, which covers the hills and pastures, beautifully coloring my countryside strolls. In the meantime, the cool sea casts an enchanting spell, challenging me for a courageous dip in its waters.
Easter customs and traditions that are perpetually reborn over the centuries, await my discovery in the Island’s picturesque churches, lit up and ornate for Holy Week. I will have the opportunity on Maundy Thursday, after the liturgy and until late at night, to join the hospitable locals in adorning the Epitaph of the local parish with flowers, which parishioners have brought from their gardens.
Before church service on Good Friday, I can pay my respects to the decorated Epitaphs of various other village churches, so as to judge which was the most beautiful. Afterwards, I will be able to follow whichever Epitaph procession I desire, observing the charming settlements filled with pious emotion under the candlelight.
On Holy Saturday’s Resurrection Night, midnight on Easter’s eve, I shall join the firework celebrations that intensely light up the sky, or even, in some villages, low-grade dynamite candlestick that sounds like thunder. After Resurrection observance, I will get to taste the traditional fast-breaking soup called “mageiritsa”.
Easter Sunday calls for me to follow the unique custom of the “gunpowder”. Parishioners of St. Spyridon church in Triovasalos and those of St. George in Pera Triovasalos have spent the year preparing improvised dynamite candlesticks that erupt in mid air. Their churches are situated atop opposing cliffs, separated by a large meadow. After the customary burning of a Judas effigy that lay hanged since morning, and after 3 bell tolls, the two “teams” start throwing their prepared dynamite candlesticks from the surrounding houses’ terraces, over the meadow. The parish that first claims to have thrown the most and strongest ones shouts “aleimma” (roughly meaning paste spread). This tradition has survived over the ages, through the Ottoman and German occupations, and the seven-year dictatorship of the late 1960s and early 1970s; I will not miss it!
One more quite characteristic custom is “kounia” or “hammock”. It was usually erected at the main village square, where young men would set the wooden beams and young women decorate it with flowers. This hammock was inaugurated on Easter Sunday and used on every holiday, until the day of the celebration of the Ascension. It symbolizes the rejuvenation of nature, and back in the day when the social customs were stricter and more rigid, young men and women would use it as an excuse for romantic get-togethers. Another distinct local holiday is “Tuesday of skolo” or “Tuesday of the departed”. On this day parishioners join the priests in chanting hymns for the souls of their deceased relatives, church bells toll cheerfully, and the holy icons are paraded in the village streets. This serves as an occasion, for people to remember and honor their ancestors and lost loved ones.