The organization which keeps alive the 200-year-old custom of the “Rocket War” on the Greek island of Chios announced on Thursday it is closing up shop for good.
The organization “Friends of Vrontados Traditions” said in a statement that it is ceasing operations since it was unable to form a new board of management due to a dearth of candidates.
“We are really sorry for this decision but reality has shown that good intentions are not enough to support the tradition. The cost is high and moral support is minimal,” the organization stated in its release.
The pyrotechnic extravaganza, which attracts thousands of tourists every year, involves two opposing parishes in the village of Vrontados spending the eve of Orthodox Easter Sunday firing thousands of homemade rockets at each other’s church — while the more pious local people attend the Easter Vigil service inside.
Banning Tradition: The Rocket War of Chios
This Orthodox #Easter the faithful on Chios are debating if the #rocketwar that was banned by Greek authorities two years ago should return. Greek Reporter filmed a special on this 200-hundred-year-old tradition… the last time it took place on Chios in 2015! Thoughts?
Posted by Greek Reporter on Wednesday, 4 April 2018
The two rival parishes, St. Mark’s and Panaghia Erythiani (“Red Madonna”), are in churches built on two hilltops, located about 400 meters (1,312 feet) away from each other.
Traditionally, the objective of each side is to hit the bell tower of the church of the other side with fireworks. The homemade rockets, which consists of wooden sticks loaded with an explosive mixture containing gunpowder, are then launched from grooved platforms.
The church buildings themselves — and even nearby buildings — must be extensively boarded up and protected with metal sheets and mesh just for this occasion every Orthodox Easter.
Many locals are unhappy at the extremely loud noises and fiery explosions involved in this custom, which can be likened to those from a war zone, but Chios’ annual Rocket War has long been a source of significant tourist revenue for the area.