We knew that spending the Easter Week in Sifnos would be interesting with so many churches on the island. At the beginning of the Easter Week the women clean and fresh their home but also whitewash the courtyyards and the alleys where they invite the visitors with Kalo Pasxa (happy Easter) (pic 1). As expected the tourist season begins, most restaurants start to open, same applies for small or bigger hotels.
Visitimg the churches and monasteries of Sifnos through out the Holy Week will put you close to the devout atmosphere of the Easter Week, there are daily masses following the typical liturgies as elsewhere in Greece.
On Great Thursday traditionally everyone paints red eggs but in Sifnos they also make poulia which is brioche that you can find during the Easter Week and has the shape of several different animals, fishes or birds. We loved the morning when we opened the door of our door and the lady (owner of the hotel) gave us a small basket with red eggs and poulia (pic 2). Later in the evening the priest reads the 6th Evangelium while young ones have to light the candles in some distant chapels and churches (where there’s no priest anyway and usually it is locked most of the days). What’s more women decorate the Epitaphios with flowers
We visited the Agios Ioannis church in Ano Petali on Holy Thursday Evening, usually the orthodox church services have symbolic representation of the crucifixion that day just before the mourning period begins. In other islands I have seen women do traditional mourning through out the night, at Agios Ioannis church there was a small chorus of 3 cantors (2 men 1 woman), it was a touching moment, devout atmosphere for sure.
On Great Friday there are many church services but the most interesting takes place in the evening when every church carry through the streets its Epitaphios (it is actually an icon of Christ richly adorned). Pic 4 is one of them without any decoration or icon on it yet. Pic 3 was taken on Friday evening through the main alley of Apollonia with people following and mourning behind it holding dark candles. At the yard of Agios Konstantinos will meet the Epitaphios of Panagia Kochi (Artemonas), of Taxiarchis (Agios Loukas) and Agios Ioannis (Ano Petali) while at Arades you can see the Epitaphios of Agios Spyridon(Apollonia), Agios Nikolaos (Exambela) and Agios Georgios (Katavatis)
Great Saturday is the day of Resurrection so more colorful and joyful. People gather at churches at 22.00 and wait for the priest to give them the light, believers hold white candles that day and will carry them back home while fireworks cover the sky (pic 5).
The most important part is the dinner after midnight, everyone waits for the extra tasty mastelo (that was cooked for hours since the morning), every restaurant will serve this that day along with other traditional dishes like mageiritsa soup and the local pastry melopita (based on local cheese Myzithra). In some of the central restaurants you better book in advance to be on the safe side.
On Easter Sunday the main mass takes place at Monastery of Vrysiani but the visitors will love the custom later in the evening when you can see at the central square of Apollonia the burning of Judas effigy. Usually there are also local dances and songs.
It’s impossible to visit Sifnos on Sunday and avoid the smell of revithada, the delicious local speciality. Revithada (chickpea stew) is served in every restaurant after the Sunday mass. Usually the locals eat it at 11.00am along with olives, bread and wine. The secret behind this food is that is cooked at earthenware pot that put in the oven of the local bakeries for hours (from 20.00 the previous night!).
If you want to try yourself:
Soak ½ kg of chickpeas for ten hours in rain water with a handful of salt (Others add 1 soup spoonful of cooking soda in the morning). Rinse, add 3 medium size onions and put them in the "tsikali" (special local pot for revithada) with 1 cup of virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and rainwater (The water that you’ll add must be enough so that must cover the chick peas). Close it in the oven for 6 hours.
Only exception the Easter Sunday when the ovens of every bakery is used for mastelo, the traditional meat dish we ate on Saturday night. It is prepared in mastelo pot (hence the name) and consists of 1 small lamb (about 12kg) cut in portions that is cooked with 2lt of red wine, lot of dill, salt and pepper. Nothing else but after 5 hours in the wood oven you get an amazingly soft and tasty meat. We loved it!
One of the most popular small dishes we had almost everywhere we drunk a beer, wine or ouzo was revithokeftedes. They are fried balls made from chickpeas, a dish similar to falafel. A week later we tried them at home:
Put 1/2kg of chick peas at water the night before. Add cooking soda the morning after, leave them soak for 30’. Leach out the chick peas (3 times). Put the chick peas in the electric food mixer along with 2 onions (finely chopped) and add salt, pepper, tahini, coriander, cumin, 1 bunch of dill, 1 bunch of mint finely chopped. Make small round balls, cover them with flour and fry them.
Obviously you can try many fish dishes but expect to pay a bit more.
I didn’t write any restaurant tips here as I preferred to put those tip on each village’s page.
My friend the musician Manolis Vasilopoulos has work playing guitar or keyboards on summer seasons in the islands, someday is here, and the day after is there.
Once upon a time he was working for "Aloni" pub, in Sifnos, and he has a lot of good friends in there. It was the time of baptisms, and a friend of him has a little beautiful boy named Iasonas, know what... yesss, the Iasonas baptism ceremony, a full greek style baptism celebrated in the church of Panagia Vounos, a beautiful chapel between Apollonia and Platy Gialos, hanged on the top of the mountain with a breathtaking view.
This kind people told Manolis that I was invited too, and I went. Oh dear God! What a celebration! Mountains of foods and a lot of wine barrels waiting for us! Musicians and dances, and don't hesitate, just go ahead and dance! And if you don't know, no problem, is the same, just dance as you can and have fun.
Two days lasts the celebration, I only remember the voice of someone telling to someother:
"Hey! the argentine guy is so drunk that he is sleeping on the table! come on, help me to move him to a better place!! ha ha ha! we don't want problems with his embassy! ha ha ha!!"
My last memory and no more.
The afternoon of the day after I wake up in my hotel trying to find my brain among my clothes, ignoring why, where and how I was there.
My wife won't eat tomatoes. When she ordered a great salad, she tried to tell the waiter this by reiterating "none, or no tomatos." The salad arrived made mostly of tomatos. I found later in a toursit guide that what sounds like none, actually means more, or yes!