Easter in Leonidio

Leonidio recaptures one of the most phantasmagorical Easter customs of Greece, the flying of the hot-air balloons. The great theatrical writer Dimitris Psathas wrote “(enjoy the) Carnival in Patras and Easter in Leonidio…” and this was only one small description of how special is Easter time in Leonidio. It is very difficult to describe it. The children who frame hot air balloons all through the holy week, the women of the village who collect violets from their gardens in order to ornate the Epitaphs at the night of holy Friday, the burning of Judas in the night of holy Saturday in all parishes, the lunch of Love that is offered at Easter from the Devotional of Love where the Gospel is read in Tsakonika, all these are some things that happen in Leonidio during the Holy Week.

But what is the most famous and most touching is the sight of hundreds of hot air balloons in the sky in the night of Holy Saturday. When we say “Christos Anesti” (Jesus has risen) the gluing from the hot air balloons which are soaked in oil and petrol are set on fire and the hot air balloons fill with hot air and people from the parishes hold them and twist them in a special way which helps them rise up in the sky under the stars. We don’t know the exact derivation of this custom but the elderly remember that it started about 1910-1915 and it is assumed that it was brought by the seagoing sailors of Leonidio from Asia. The special papers that are used are usually blue, green and orange but the colors that overmaster are red and yellow. The hot air balloons are accompanied by fireworks and homemade crackers and make the night of the Resurrection one emotional show for the old familiars and an unexpected flush of the soul for the new visitors. Sunday Evening at Easter on the square of 25th March the devotional of Love is conducted and the Gospel is read in the Tsakoniki dialect and afterwards a traditional celebration is being held where Tsakonikos dance dominates.

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