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Good Friday in Perissa, Santorini, Greece

In Perissa, Santorini, Greece

In Perissa, Santorini, Greece

Last Easter, I was in Merida, Mexico.  This year, after hearing about the enormity of the celebration, I was determined to be in Greece.  Sadly, I said goodbye to my mom in Barcelona, but happily, I arrived in Santorini just in time.

I’m staying in the southern area of the island, the only guest in a large hotel.

My first walk around Perissa reveals the white houses with blue trim I’ve only ever seen in pictures and a black beach with restaurants on the shore, many in the process of re-opening after a six-month hibernation.

A stuffed dummy hangs over the street.  I ask a local and he tells me it’s Judas and the locals shoot it on Easter.  Then I write myself the most badass note I’ve ever written: “Sunday, 5 PM – Kill Judas“.  I tuck the sinister message into my pocket like a mafioso.

But today it’s Good Friday and the church bells have been ringing all morning.   A Greek Orthodox sermon, broadcasted via outside speakers, blares from the church for what seems to be hours.

I return to the hotel and watch fog roll over the craggy mountains that rim the village.  It’s colder and windier than I expected.  Time for a nap.

In the afternoon, I see the owner of the hotel.  She gives me two fresh homemade Easter cookies.  My treats prompt a visit by a cheerful dog with eyes of two different colors.  He escorts me into town and on the way I notice the candles in red glass burning outside homes.

My first sign in 13 months.  It's all Greek to me!

My first sign in 13 months. It’s all Greek to me!

I sit down at a restaurant on the beach.  A man with dreamy blue eyes explains the Easter schedule to me.  Tonight, there will be a procession from the church.

I order a filter coffee (French press) but he insists I have a frappe – “a Greek specialty” he said.  Really?  

I sit alone, staring at the ocean and shivering in the cold.  Needless to say, the cold “Greek specialty” did nothing to help my plight.

The owner of the restaurant asks me where I’m from.  Finding out I’m American, he asks if I’ll write “Happy Easter” in English on a napkin so he can write it on a sign.

“I’m a sign maker” I said. I can write it ON your sign.

You’d have thought I’d just shat a golden egg by the expression on his face.

“Write it please!”

Thus began my 15-minutes of fame, which I would have preferred to be because I saved 100 kittens from a house fire, or ate 50 cherry pies in ten minutes, or won the lottery, or swam the Bering Straight in a mermaid costume, or married Anthony Bourdain (sigh), or wrestled with a shark and lived, or found a sunken treasure, or discovered a new species of frog, or apprehended a villain…or something.  But no,  it happened in Greece.  Writing a sign.  What a rip off.

As I wrote, a crowd of men gathered around me, watching in awe like I was parting the seas.

“Bravo!  Bravo!” they shouted. “What do you want lady?  Anything! You can have it!”

“I like to eat”, I replied….and “I’ll be here all week…and some raki would be nice.”

“Warm or cold you want!?” he asked with a tone of anger.  But it’s not anger at all.  It’s Greek.

“Warm please.  I’m freezing!”

“You can have it!  We have work for you.  All your food, of course!  No problem! Whatever you want you tell us.”

Does he know what a Pandora’s box he just cracked?

After 13 months without making a sign, my skills are rusty but still they’re impressed.

“Now in Greek! Another sign!”

Good Friday in Perissa, Santorini, Greece

Good Friday in Perissa, Santorini, Greece

The owner writes out the letters and I copy.  As I write, I’m pleased that I’ve recently learned the Greek alphabet and I speak aloud when writing: “Sigma, Lambda, Omicron, Iota, Delta”…

The procession will start soon.  I pound the remaining raki and depart.  As I leave the owner says “We see you tomorrow!  You will be here!” 

Wait a minute, did I agree to this?  Was that a command?  I didn’t disagree which I think in Aggressive-Greek-Man language translates to agreeing.

I walk to the church and soon the procession begins.  At the front, four men carry a bier which represents a tomb and inside is a richly embroidered cloth which depicts Christ, called an epitaphios.  So this is a somber procession representing Christ’s funeral.

Tin cans filled with kerosene-soaked rags set aflame light the way.  I join in at the tail end, having no idea that this walk in the freezing cold will take an hour.  Two hundred locals and I walk the whole town.  People stand outside their homes and sprinkle perfume on us from shakers.  My hair is wet with perfume and it runs down my face. My lips taste like Polo cologne which reminds me of my first boyfriend who wore Polo.  Excessively.  Ah, the 1980’s.

Back to Santorini in the year 2014, we finally arrive at what looks like a chapel and the bier is carried inside.  The locals wait outside.  Three minutes later the bier is carried out like a hamburger at McDonalds.   Whatever happened in there, it was quick serve.

And thus began a walk back to the church, shorter this time.  We walk along the ocean.  The sky is nearly crystal clear and the stars glimmer brightly.  I am freezing to death, covered in Polo cologne, and about to pee my pants, but still, this experience is unique and pretty sweet.  And I guess I’m working tomorrow.

Videos of Good Friday in Perissa, Santorini, Greece:

The Procession:

Photos of Perissa, Santorini, Greece:

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