One of the key characteristics of Naxos as a destination is its many, well-populated villages. And although they have adopted some elements of modern life, they still retain many of the rich traditions and customs of the past.
This is especially true during the holidays, and, more specifically, during the Greek Orthodox Easter (this year on April 20th).
On Naxos, just like in most parts of Greece, Easter ushers in the beginning of Spring. During this time, many Greeks travel to mountain and seaside villages to celebrate the rich spiritual, religious and cultural traditions associated with the holiday: attending mass, partaking in the procession of the Epitaph on Holy Friday; the breaking of red eggs on the eve of Easter Sunday; and enjoying the traditional meal of Easter Sunday.
In the villages of Naxos, there are additional unique customs that are associated with the Easter holiday.
Here are a few:
The Swings at Komiaki
A tradition that began long ago, and expected to be revived this year, is the delightful tradition of the swings. The day after Easter Sunday, in the village of Komiaki, where many of the streets feature wood-ceiled arches, the locals find sturdy beams of in which to hang a makeshift swing. The swings are set up for the young girls of the village, who as they swing, are serenaded by young boys reciting improvised poems.
[Komiaki, also known as Koronida, in northern Naxos and about 35km from Chora, is located on the main road from Chora to Apollonas via Eggares.]
The Walnut Raisin Bread at Moni
It was customary on Naxos, in general, for homemakers to bake bread for the coming week on Saturdays. This tradition led to the baking of a special raisin-walnut bread on the Saturday of Lazarus, the Saturday before Holy Saturday (and the day before Palm Sunday).
In the village of Moni, homemakers and women tending to the church would bake this bread in the shape and form of a person, known as Lazarakia to be consumed on Holy Friday. Today, this custom continues with the bread being baked, but on Holy Thursday. Some continue to be baked in the shape of Lazarakia, while others as baguettes.
On Holy Friday, midday, at the church of Panagia Drossiani, the women share the raisin-walnut bread with parishioners while religious hymns are played in the courtyard.
[The Church of Panagia (Virgin Mary) Drossiani, one of Naxos’s oldest churches, is located a short distance from the village of Moni (about 30 minutes and 20 km from Chora) on the way to Chalki.]
The Road of Lit Reeds at Eggares
On Holy Friday, in the village of Eggares, the route of the Epitaph is accompanied by lit stalks of reed (known as kalamia). The placement of these stalks at various points along the procession route, in the evening, is a solemn and powerful image.
[The village of Eggares, is approx. 9km and 15 minutes from Chora]
Village Variations of the Traditional Easter Plate Batoudo
The traditional dish of stuffed baby goat with potatoes, known as batoudo, on Naxos, has a couple of variations based on what village you visit. In Apiranthos, for example, the basic stuffing (herbs, onions and rice) is enriched with raisins while in in Filoti, bits of liver are also added.