Easter is the most important religious holiday in Skiathos. Visitors wishing to experience this remarkable spiritual and devotional week should note that in Greece the dates on which Easter is celebrated differs by about 3 weeks from those observed by the rest of the Christian world. From the point-of-view of a spectator from Friday it starts to get very interesting. The nails holding the figure of Christ are knocked off and the figure is taken down from the cross and wrapped in a white cloth. A large piece of cloth, embroidered with the image of Christ, called the epitaphios which has been decorated with flowers by the girls through the night, is brought into the church where it is sprinkled with rose-water and more flower petals are thrown upon it. The bells of the church begin to toll and all the flags in Greece are lowered to half-mast in while women in the congregation weep in mourning for the dead Jesus. In Skiathos there are two epitaphios services which take place: On Friday in the evening a funeral service is held and at about 9pm the epitaphios is taken from the church of “Trion Ierarchon” and with the bells tolling mournfully, is carried through the streets in a solemn procession. The second epitaphios service begins on Saturday at 1am at the Evagelistrias Monastery The two congregations then meet in the square with their epitaphios after taking different routes through the village and the procession through the town begins at four in the morning. There is a leader (a herald) who loudly announces the appropriate psalms, while all the people and the cantors join in. The procession winds along the picturesque alleyways and cobbled paths of the island. All the houses are lit up, while in the courtyards there are lighted candles and burning incense imbues the air with a sweet smell. At the Church of the “Three Hierarchs”, the congregations of the two churches meet at around 5.30 in the morning. There, the clergy perform a reenactment of the “Descent into Hell” of Christ. When they come to words “Lift up your heads, O ye gates”, the priest pushes with force (with his foot) and opens the outer door of the church. Soon it will be dawn, but nobody goes to bed, because Holy Saturday is a day devoted to the last-minute preparations for Easter Sunday.
On Saturday the Orthodox Patriarch breaks the seal of the door of the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jeruselem and emerges with the Holy Fire, which is then flown by Olympic Airways, accompanied by high-ranking priests and government officials to Athens airport where it is met by an honor guard to the small church of Agia Anargyroi in the Plaka. From there the light is distributed to churches all over Attika and the rest of Greece.