Friday, April 24, 2009

Where Did This Come From?

Two churches on a small Grecian island have the tradition of firing rockets at each other on Easter morning.

The video there is short, with quiet audio and is amazing!



  1. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    I bet they are hiding ex-nazis. Rockets, a wanton desire for destruction, and in the context of tradition. . . sounds like Lutheran Nazi fugitives to me.

  2. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    My wife heard my comment and she said, "There you go, trying to start another flame war."

    See, a flame war - more evidence they are Lutheran fugitives!

  3. orrologion said...

    According to another BBC report:

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

    Locals light dozens of rockets to fire at rival church
    Use of the rockets dates back to the 19th Century
    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."

    I should note that in a religion that has many, many nominal adherents due to culture, it can often feel that Pascha is about 'protecting worshipers'. We had a massive influx of Georgian immigrants to our church in 1999-2001 and Pascha was crazy, packed, loud, lots of men in leather jackets smoking outside, no one seeming to know what was going on, or caring, etc.

    Of course, all the regular worshipers were there, too, trying to serve, sing, pray, assist, etc.

    Many parishioners left and joined other not-so-Georgian parishes.

    But, really, what is one to do. There is something in them that has brought them to church! St. Mary of Egypt had less than pure motives for her pilgrimage to Jerusalem, for wishing to enter the Anastasis - and we were given a saint. I'm not sure we can snuff out the smoldering spark in the name of 'should'. Same with Christmas/Easter Christians of any stripe. The have shown up at the eleventh hour (and then some; literally, too, as in Orthodoxy Pascha happens at midnight with preparatory services beginning at 11:30pm.) It is easy for those of us that started work at the ninth, sixth or first hour to complain. It's easy to complain that the fatted calf has been slain for 'them'.

    The rockets are a more spectacular version of people not understanding, of the Church hunkering down, but of a distant, faint hunger for true faith, for Resurrection as it is 'because we die that we sin'.

    I think I will skip Vrodandos, Chios for Pascha and stick with my Georgians.

  4. orrologion said...

    Another (more pious) explanation for how the event started:

    "The second story states that this tradition was born during the Turkish occupation [1566-1912]. People from the island were prohibited to celebrate Easter the way they were used to. The Christians from the churches of Panagia Erithiani and Saint Mark decided to have a fake war with rockets to keep the Turks away. Indeed, the Turks were frightened by the sudden violence. They kept a safe distance while the rockets were fired. In the meantime, the communities could celebrate Jesus’ resurrection in the churches."

  5. Dixie said...

    Christ is risen!

    I can't speak about the rockets but I had seen several youtube videos where, in Greece, fireworks are set off as soon as the priest starts singing, "Christos Anesti". Have to admit that as we were outside in the first few minutes of Pascha morning and Father started singing "Christos Anesti"...I thought it would have been GREAT to have had fireworks. The Pascha celebration is very exciting...especially so after the disciplines of Lent and the Holy Week services. I can understand the appeal of fireworks.

  6. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Christopher--I asked the question more in terms of it being just a bizzare tradition...and pretty cool, in its way. :)