Easter in Greece is the most celebrated and significant holiday on the calendar and within the Greek Orthodox Church. The preparations for Easter are just as important as the festivities and many of the old-established customs and traditions are still passed down from generation to generation, keeping family ties as strong as ever in today’s modern society.
Although the days, (Holy week) leading up to Easter are deemed very sorrowful and sad in respect for the crucifixion, the celebrations that follow on Easter Sunday are colorful and lively with sumptuous feasts, drinking and dancing. Holy week is also a time for fasting and the Greek diet excludes meat, fish, (but not seafood), eggs, oil and dairy products. This fasting has actually begins seven weeks before Easter Sunday on “Clean Monday”.
Holy Thursday marks a busy day for the women at home; distinctive aromas of freshly baked sweet Easter bread, “Tsoureki” and tasty biscuits, “Koulourakia” linger in kitchens throughout Greece, and women and children dye dozens of boiled eggs vivid red or an array of bright colors.
The ruby red eggs symbolize the blood of Christ and also the renewal of life.
Holy Thursday is also a time for private and special prayers; it is a start of a two day traditional mourning, when most people of all ages go to church to light brown candles and to silently pray next to a symbolic representation of the crucifixion. Church services are held in the evening and many of the older women will even hold a night- time vigil.
An aura of great sadness falls over Greek communities on Holy Friday as the steady death toll rings out all over the country. It is a day of deep mourning with flags at half-mast and a somber atmosphere prevails in many homes. During the afternoon church services, there is a re-enactment of the crucifixion where the figure of Christ is removed from the cross and placed in a shrine that has been decorated with flowers by women and children.
Later in the evening, a subdued congregation follows the shrine, (representing Christ’s tomb) in a silent candlelit funeral procession as it is carried through the streets. The crowded procession stops on every corner in the neighborhood, while a priest announces that they are all mourning the death of Christ. On returning to church, everyone who attended the service receives a carnation or rose to take home.
Holy Saturday is a day of last minute preparations for Easter Sunday’s celebrations. For example, the traditional Easter soup, Mayiritsa (which signifies that the forty day of fasting is finally over) is prepared from lamb offal ready to eat after the midnight church service. Special long decorated candles instead of the brown ones are used to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and all over the country anticipation mounts.
Late in the evening, crowds of people descend on the church for the most celebrated service in Greece. Then, just before midnight, the lights in the church are extinguished and the bells start to ring out the announcement that Christ has risen. Finally, a priest passes a single eternal flame from his candle to pass round the congregation and the dark sky overhead is lit up with fireworks. “Christos Anesti” – Christ has risen can be heard all around.
It is a tradition in Greece to carefully carry the eternal flame home to make a cross with black smoke over the top of the door, which is said to bless the house. After everyone has returned home, it is time for the Mayiritas soup and the red boiled eggs. However, first, each person has to see who has the strongest egg by smashing it together with their opponents.
After the previous evening’s excitement and early morning meal, surprisingly, nearly everyone is up early on Easter Sunday. In most cases from the bright of dawn, grills are fired up and the traditional lamb or goat along with “Kokoretsi”, (seasoned lamb offal) is already turning slowly on the spit. Tables are prepared for a great feast and the aroma of roast meat wafts over the countryside and from the rooftops in the city. Loud Greek music drifts through the air and high-spirited Greeks are ready for eating, drinking, singing and dancing all afternoon at their family Easter celebration.
Mykonos, with its beauty, enchantment and European ambience of sophistication is undeniably one of the most glamorous islands in the world. Not only is there an influx of holidaymakers each year, but the island also attracts some of the most elite and top echelons of society, including movie stars and celebrities.
The idyllic landscape, sun-drenched beaches, intimate restaurants, chic bars, cafes and trendy clubs provide a perfect setting for a dream vacation, but Mykonos is also an ideal location to shoot a movie. Some of the most well-known motion pictures have been filmed all over the island and it is possible when visiting, to actually see where the movie stars acted out their scenes.
THE GREEK TYCOON (1978)
“The Greek Tycoon”, starring Anthony Quinn and Jacqueline Bisset was filmed on Mykonos in 1978. The love story between a shipping magnate and an assassinated president's widow was panned by critics for portraying untold wealth and power with no real convincing plot.
However, the stunning island location, (seen here with Anthony Quinn in Little Venice) combined with many of Mykonos’s familiar landmarks, such as the distinctive windmills were all the ingredients needed to make The Greek Tycoon one of the most remembered movies of its time. The film was also shot in Athens, Corfu, as well as New York, but it is the romantic scenes on Mykonos that still delights audiences even today.
SUMMER LOVERS (1982)
“Summer Lovers”, while actually shot on the islands of Santorini and Crete, some scenes were filmed on the island of Delos, which holidaymakers make a point of visiting during their stay on Mykonos as it is quite near. Delos in fact, is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece and it is by no coincidence that it was chosen for scenes in the movie. As the title suggests, the film, starring Peter Gallagher, Darryl Hannah and Valerie Quennessen is a love story involving an American couple and a French archeologist working on a dig. The movie depicts the uninhibited lifestyle and freedom that a summer vacation can evoke.
SHIRLEY VALENTINE (1989)
The unforgettable movie “Shirley Valentine” was shot on Agios Ioannis beach, just a short distance away from Saint John’s Hotel and 4 km from Mykonos town. A number of visitors to the island, who enjoyed the comedy so much travel to Agios Ioannis just to sit on the same quiet coastal beach where Pauline Collins, the star of the film and Tom Conti played their roles as passionate lovers.
The sandy beach also has the best views of Delos on the island. Tom Conti plays the Greek waiter who woos Pauline Collins, a miserable middle-aged Liverpool housewife while she’s on vacation and the movie has all the elements of a Mediterranean summer romance.
THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002)
The picturesque neighborhood of Little Venice where the colorful wooden houses hang over the blue Mediterranean Sea is an especially popular location for movie directors to shoot their scenes.
Although “The Bourne Identity” starring Matt Damon and Franka Potente was filmed in France, Italy and Czech Republic, the movie’s final scenes were shot on Mykonos.
The cinema blockbuster is an adaptation of a novel by Robert Ludlum and is an action spy film. In one of the movie’s scenes, Bourne, played by Matt Damon tracks down Marie, (Franka Potente), in Little Venice, where she is running a scooter rental business.
THE KINGS OF MYKONOS (2010)
Finally, who can forget the most recent movie filmed on Mykonos; “The Kings of Mykonos”?
The motion picture comedy stars Greek-Australian Actor Nick Giannopoulos, Vince Colosimo, Alex Dimitriades, Costas Kilias and Zeta Makrypoulia, and is about a non-Anglo- Celtic European who inherits a beach from an uncle he has never met. The movie was shot around Mykonos town and various parts of the island. However, once again one of the most memorable scenes in the movie is a lively Greek dance performance that takes place on the waterfront of Little Venice.
If you are contemplating a vacation on Mykonos, why not watch one of these exciting movies before you set out and get a taste of this beautiful Mediterranean island? Saint John’s 5 star Hotel is situated in Agios Ioannis, a perfect place to remember some of the extraordinary scenes and to perhaps rub shoulders with a movie star.
Despite Mykonos being renowned for its beautiful Cycladic architecture, Little Venice is strongly reminiscent of the Venetian homes in Italy. Sitting precariously on the edge of the blue Aegean Sea, Little Venice with its unique picturesque buildings, remarkable style and old world charm is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island. The two and three storey buildings constructed with flat roofs, brightly painted wooden doors and the maze of narrow alleys adorned with masses of fragrant flowers draw visitors and artists from all over the world.
Little Venice is by far the most enchanting neighborhood on Mykonos and is steeped in fascinating history. Situated on the western coast of the island and literally looming over the sea, the 16th and 17th century’s buildings are said to have provided perfect camouflage for pirates who could load and unload their booty under the cover of darkness. Although giant waves would often crash against the buildings, these quaint white-washed houses would withstand strong winds and this assault for many more years to come, even up until today.
Stretching from Alevkantra Beach right up to the outskirts of the town's impressive Kastro (Castle) area, visitors to Little Venice will find that many of the buildings have been converted into chic bars and comfortable accommodation. There are bustling cafes and small intimate restaurants where people can relax in a place of breathtaking beauty admiring the spectacular sunsets and the familiar windmills in the distance.
Dotted along the narrow paved streets are quaint shops selling all kinds of souvenirs plus fine arts and crafts produced by local skilled craftsmen.
As you can see, Little Venice is one of the most beautiful and romantic places on the whole of Mykonos offering everything one would expect for an enjoyable Mykonos holiday.
The spectacular domed windmills are a prominent landmark on the island of Mykonos. They are not only a magnificent sight, but also of great historical interest. Due to its geographic position, Mykonos from as early as the 16th century was able to refine grain and compact it for transport to Europe. Year round strong winds and the positioning of the windmills around the port made it easy for the islanders to make a living this way. However, by the 20th century due to the progress of technology, the windmills were no longer in use.
Although there were once over 20 windmills on Mykonos, it is the cluster of windmills, Kato Myloi perched high in a row on the small hill southwest of the town of Mykonos, that are most well-known today. The traditional white windmills overlook the Aegean Sea and can also be seen from every point of the town of Mykonos. On arriving at the harbor of Alefkandra, they are the first thing that catches a visitor’s eye.
Other picturesque windmills are located in and around Alevkantra and can be seen quite clearly from Little Venice. Being over a hundred years old, most of the windmills on the island have been renovated and their equipment preserved; one has been turned into a museum. However, for travelers to Mykonos, the windmills offer the opportunity to imagine a time gone by and to enjoy another truly magical experience of Mykonos.