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Every morning, the earth blossoms as it feels the rays of the rising sun, with the aroma of lavender blessing the air and picturesque gardens in full bloom… The playfulness of spring is just one impatient preview of yet another glorious summer to come.
Water taxis come and go as the island begins to welcome its first guests, the timeless “lovers” of Spetses who will be celebrating Easter here with their families and friends, anticipating the local traditions and savouring the promise that the following months will find them visiting quite often.
In the arms of Spetses and amid the fragrances of spring, I, too, look forward to welcoming our guests to the island’s charm, and to the Poseidonion Grand Hotel. Preparations start early on, with the sweet smells of traditional “lazarakia” cookies emanating from freshly cleaned households on Lazarus Saturday, while little girls fill their woven baskets with freshly picked flowers and stroll around the island, singing the traditional Lazarus carols. As they skip through the Poseidonion Square, on to Kounoupitsa, I pause in appreciation of the true beauty hidden in this place and its traditions!
Preparations are fervent as the Holy Week is upon us. The service can be heard from churches like a holy melody, with the colours of twilight catching the attention of onlookers and causing their minds to wander. On Good Friday the atmosphere is solemn, with church bells sounding throughout the island and the decorated biers receiving prayers from one and all. As night falls, they depart from Agios Nikolaos Church, Analipsis Church, Agios Antonios Church and Agios Ioannis Church to meet at the Poseidonion square, where the entire island is singing psalms. I’ve witnessed this wonderful tradition every year from the Verandah of the Poseidonion Grand Hotel as I awaited our guests for dinner, and yet each time feels like the first!
In the early morning on Holy Saturday, the joyful message of the Resurrection becomes a cause for celebration, whilst we join the households of Spetses in making the final preparations for a wonderful meal of joy and love. As soon as the priests chant “Christos Anesti”, the starry Spetses sky explodes in dozens of fireworks which fill our hearts with hope.
Our island’s beauty is also found in simplicity, in the age-old customs which are still alive today. At the Monastery of Agioi Pantes, the Resurrection holds a different meaning. Only the sounds of psalms can be heard as they are whispered by nuns and the most pious of visitors, until the lights go out and the priest appears in the entryway, to share the Holy Light with one and all. The nuns clutch their crosses as they lead the procession to the graveyard, followed by the priest and the surrounding guests, to chant “Christos Anesti” in candlelight.
And these are only a few of our traditions that have stood the test of time… In the courtyard of Analipsis Church after the Resurrection, local youths burn an old fishing boat, which they have “stolen” from the island’s fishermen, in a flurry of firecrackers. On Easter Sunday in Kounoupitsa Square, Judas is “punished” as a replica of this infamous betrayer is set aflame. Customs which are passed down from generation to generation, giving colour to this great Christian holiday and offering uniqueness to the island’s character.
The most important part of Easter Sunday is, of course, the celebratory feast, filled with Easter delicacies which bring people together at the family table on balconies, in gardens and on our Verandah, with a backdrop of the Argo-Saronic Gulf’s deep blue. Glasses clink, eggs are broken, wishes are spoken, the aromas of spit-roasted meats whet our appetites and the bright spring sun beholds a wonderful celebration during the season of rebirth, as we enjoy our blessing of being on one of the most idyllic islands in the world.