Chios is a lovely place. It’s a tiny Aegean island just five miles from the coast of Turkey. It’s one of the places reputed to be the birthplace of Homer, and its 11th-century monastery Nea Moni is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We visit it on our Undiscovered Greece cruise. A really placid, peaceful, soul-nurturing island that — with prodigious paradoxicality — on the night before Easter Sunday looks like this:
That’s because two opposing parishes in the town of Vrodados spend the evening just before Orthodox Easter Sunday firing thousands of homemade rockets at each other’s church — while the more pious among them attend mass inside.
The result looks a lot like warfare. Tens of thousands of missiles — some estimates go as high as 80,000 — fly back and forth through the night sky, leaving streaks not unlike tracer bullets. The projectiles are prepared throughout the year by so-called “gangs” from the two parishes, Saint Mark and Panagia Erithiani. Even though making such rockets is illegal, the authorities mostly turn a blind eye to the fireworks tradition.