We should start this at my church, by Mollie

For Pascha, two Greek Orthodox churches on the island of Chios fire rockets at each other. During the Divine Liturgy.

My congregation is on the same street as an Episcopal church, another Episcopal church, a Roman Catholic church and a Christian Science church. I think we should start a rocket war as well.

I would love to know how this Greek tradition started . . .


We should start this at my church, by Mollie — 17 Comments

  1. Kinda gives a whole new meaning to the word Ablaze. This is one church tradition I would advise strongly against adopting (so would your insurance agent).

  2. I’ve also heard about Greek churches where parishioners throw tableware (breakable) down a hillside to represent … I think, punishment for Judas? Not sure, when I heard about it, my mind wandered to the mental image of a church lady group getting rid of its kitchen dishes annually and plotting to buy nicer ones.

    In any case, maybe y’all could agree on bottle rockets instead of mortars. That could be fun. Especially before surnrise services. Get everybody good and ‘waked up.’

    I say, open the negotiations!!!

  3. “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.” (BBC News, 2004)


    Here is a website dedicated to this event:


    Though Orthodox, I will be skipping the nonsense and focus on the Lord’s Passover (Pascha).

  4. 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. We have the traditional bonfire for the Easter vigil each year. We gather around it at sundown and light the pascal candle from it and in turn light everyone’s individual candles before processing into a dark church. After the reading of the salvation story the lights are turned on and we celebrate the ressurection along with baptizing and confirming our adult catechuemens.

    We stop short of firing rockets however 🙂


  6. TR,
    That is an interesting tradition, one I am not familiar with. How long has your church been been doing that, and what is the origin of the practice?
    Just curious.
    John Hooss

  7. That video clip is AWESOME! There are 3 Unitarian Universalist churches within a couple blocks of my church (although one is technically ECUSA, wink, wink) and I think we should definitely start this tradition.

  8. We have good friends in Chicago who are Greek Orthodox. Some years back they invited us to attend the baptism of their twin girls. After the service, there was a big dinner in the fellowship hall. One of the items served was saganaki, which is a flaming cheese dish. My stepson asked me what this thing with all the flames was called, and I told him. Afterward, he mistakenly referred to it as “nagasaki,” which I thought was pretty funny, in a black-humorish sort of way.

  9. John,

    I would have to do some digging (there is probably a pretty good description of the vigil on wikipedia) but what I know is that it is an ancient custom. It grows out of having an all night vigil with a fire to wait until the first light of Easter morning, praying and reading scripture until the Lord arises.

    There is a coservative break-away Anglican church (formerly Episcopal) in a neighboring suburb that still does the all night thing. We just have about a 90 minute service. We get about 100 people who come to avoid the rush of Easter morning and some who go to both.

    It is also an ancient custom to baptize and confirm adults at the vigil service. They are brought into faith (new life) in connection with the new life of Easter. You can learn more about that by googling “catechumenate.”

    We have been doing this for nearly 10 years now. The time of ther service changes each year. We start our procession into the church at exactly the moment the cun goes down.


  10. St. Paul’s in Brookfield, IL also has an Easter Vigil service on Holy Saturday….so if you would like to attend one next year, and you’re in the Chicagoland area…….. 🙂

  11. The Easter Vigil might be my favorite service of the year. Definitely in the top 3. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it this year because I was too tired with my pregnancy. I’m still sad about it!

  12. “I think we should start a rocket war as well.”

    I don’t know… I think the Episcopal Church may have gotten a hold of some cobalt-thorium-G and connected it to a doomsday device. Maybe too risky. 🙂

    Fans of the movie “Dr. Strangelove” will recognize my obscure reference.

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