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An unusual Easter celebration

An unusual Easter celebration

In a bizarre but long-cherished local tradition, two Orthodox churches in the town of Vrodandos fire rockets at each other’s churches – while services are held.

The objective is to hit the other church’s bell, but many rockets go astray, causing locals to rush frantically for cover.

Several days before the event, residents carefully board up both churches’ windows and doors and wrap wire sheeting around the buildings to protect worshippers.

On Easter Sunday evening, as mass is said in both churches, the rival parish “gangs” set to work, lighting fireworks and aiming them haphazardly at each other’s church bells.

Amid the melee, priests in both churches attempt to continue with mass, although the deafening sounds of fireworks and cheers as the rockets hit their targets often drown out the proceedings entirely.

Locals are not sure of the tradition’s origins, although it is possibly linked to stories of the island’s sailors, who used to battle pirates with cannons installed on their ships and began a custom of firing them at Easter.

In the late 19th Century, when Ottoman occupiers confiscated the cannons over fears they would be used in an uprising, locals resorted to firing rockets instead.

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