Greek Town Celebrates Easter with Judas effigy

This event has a dark side

A few South American Roman Catholics burn Judas effigies as a ritual event on Easter day . The same is followed by residents of the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece. Unlike other Orthodox Christians, who celebrate the day, these Roman Catholics use this event to remind the devout that Judas deserved his punishment for betraying Christ in lieu of money. This tradition can be traced back centuries. Some parts of Greece have been doing it for a long time. For others, like the residents of Ermioni, a Greek town, the event is a relatively new phenomenon. The first such ritual burning began in the late 1980s.

The actual effigy burning event was a real spectacle. Small boats, about 20 of them, circled a raft carrying a Judas model crafted from wire. The scene usually takes place off the Ermioni coast. The Judas wire model was then set on fire. Over 1,000 visitors and locals watched from the shore. Spectators were also treated to a laser show and a music performance.

This unorthodox celebration is the ordinary course of affairs in the Greek Easter calendar. Orthodox Christians all over Greece honor Jesus Christ's resurrection in their own, unconventional way. The devout do 40 days of fasting before Easter. The people who burn a Judas' effigy are mostly from Tolo, a town located on Peloponnese peninsula. As per the Bible, among the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, one disciple named Judas Iscariot betrayed him with a kiss. The latter was the code for Roman soldiers to arrest Christ. Subsequent events led to Christ’s crucifixion. The burning spectacle is enjoyed by thousands who wait for the specter from a nearby beach.

Straw was the preferred choice of material for the Judas effigy in earlier times. There could be topical variations on this theme. To give an example, villagers of two Crete settlements intentionally made their Judas resemble Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current President of Turkey.

This Judas effigy burning custom has darker, anti-Semitic overtones as well. Many blame the Jews for killing Christ. Things turned bad on one occasion between Greece and Great Britain during the 19th century when the former ransacked the house of a British Jew in Athens.

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