Sunday, April 20, 2014

It is Easter in Loutro, Crete

Easter arrived in the village on the south coast of Crete with much the same fanfare and celebration as it did when we were here last year. And that is one reason we returned to this special little place on the Libyan Sea this year.

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Long recognized as the most important celebration of the year in the Greek Orthodox religion, the traditions surrounding Easter are  particularly special in the small places like Loutro.

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In the evening on  Good Friday, Megali Paraskieve,  (the Friday before Easter) the flower-covered bier (shown in the first photo) was carried in a processional through town to near the ferry dock where a brief ceremony was conducted by the village priest, Papa Geogious (Father George).  There are no vehicles here. The processional made its way along  ‘main street’, the sidewalk that bisects the dozen restaurants, hotels and stores that line the harbor.

The umbrellas were due to the inclement weather this year – the rainfall was heavy and it was such a chilly evening that we donned our long johns to keep us warm. . .in the restaurant and our room!
Holy Saturday, Megali Savato, dawned bright and sunny and by noon “Judas” had appeared on the beach to await his fate later in the evening. 

(We had a good chuckle during a morning hike outside the village when we encountered a tourist from a  neighboring hamlet. He was coming from Loutro and upon learning we were staying there, asked, “Say, did you notice the chap hanging from a noose on the beach?” We assured him it was Judas. . .)

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As Saturday afternoon arrived, so did the boats, water taxis and ferries bringing families and friends to the small village. Not as many, we noted, as last year but then Easter fell two weeks earlier this year and this sleepy little village has barely arisen from its winter’s hibernation. 

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At 8:30 p.m. the church bell began ringing and it was time to gather for there for the service that culminates with the priest announcing “Khristos Anesti” (Christ is Risen)!  We missed it last year as we expected it later in the evening, but like many of those similar ‘ midnight’ services throughout the world, it has been moved up to an earlier hour.

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The church in Loutro, sporting a new whitewash, is small as one might expect in a tiny hamlet. Its grounds are dirt and stone, a single bell hangs from the bell tower. The priest is elderly – very elderly – and very revered by locals and we outsiders alike.

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The next half hour was pure magic – and not all church services we’ve attended over the years on Easter could be described that way. The church and church yard filled with the faithful to hear the priest -- his voice sometimes halting with the cadence of age as he told the centuries old story of Easter.  And then the call, ‘defte lavata fos’ (light the candles):

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Here it isn’t about chocolate bunnies and baskets filled after backyard hunts with Easter eggs (some plastic ones filled with coin) like back in the United States, here it is about celebrating Easter and its meaning while surrounded by family and friends.

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And as for Judas, as soon as the call went out, “Khristos Anesti” and the bell rang the news, (prompting much hugging, kissing and hand shaking) it was time to move to the beach. . .

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We hope where ever you are and if you are celebrating Easter that it is as memorable as ours has been.  We’ll tell you more about Loutro in a future post and tell you where we’re headed this week. (And we’ve just learned that a favorite fellow travel blogging duo will be there . . .so you will have to come back and see who it is and where we are!)  Happy Easter!


  1. We have ourselves discovered the devotion of the Greeks in the celebration of Easter on the island of Paros.

  2. Hello Jackie and Joel:

    We really love the way the meaning of Easter is celebrated in Loutro as you describe it in this post and how wonderful to have been a part of it all.

    The hanging and subsequent burning of Judas we do find a little strange and not entirely to our liking!! That said we had not heard of this tradition until very recently when, it would appear, it occurs in Turkey also.

    1. Hi Jane and Lance, thanks for celebrating 'with us' Easter in Loutro. It is a magical place that little village, we hope to be there again next year to celebrate.

  3. it was lovely to go with you through your images and words to join in the Easter celebrations in this village. Thank you. Wishings you blessings for Easter. Thank you for stopping by my blog the other day.

    1. And thank you Jill for taking time to visit our blog on Cretan Easter, Jill!

  4. How wonderful to experience another culture this way, Jackie. And that's quite funny about Judas and the tourist!

    1. It is such a great thing to be able to participate in other's cultural and religious traditions. . .I am glad you understand and can appreciate that! Thanks for the comment!

  5. Hi Jackie,

    Χριστός ἀνέστη!

    How wonderfully you have described the most important of the Greek Orthodox celebrations; something I have had the pleasure to participate in for the past 25 years on the island, the last four, in our tiny village. Your lovely photos have captured the passionate essence of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. I couldn't agree with you more; I am sad to say that chocolate Easter eggs hiding in bushes, no matter how pretty the garden, just doesn't add up to the treasure of finding the true meaning of Easter in prayer, by the glow of the Holy Light.

    Looking forward to your next adventure and the big reveal of your mystery travel companions! Thanks for the wonderful updates!



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