Athens: Greece’s Easter Monday Ghost Town

A typical Easter Monday scene in Athens

Greek Easter is about the only week-long religious event which can both fill the streets of a European capital to bursting point and also clear them of all living souls.

Holy Week in Athens is marked by all kinds of traditions and activity, such as farmers from other parts of the country coming to the Athenian markets to sell lamb and other special goods associated with this time of year.

Even though all public transport out of the capital is booked up by Greeks travelling to spend Easter with their families, Athens is still a hub of activity — for the moment.

From Good Friday onwards the streets of the capital are often full of solemn religious processions, such as when the epitaphios — a flower-draped image of Christ — is taken out of local churches at night.

At midnight on Easter Sunday, when it is announced that Χριστός ανέστη – Christ has risen – the streets of Athens are of full of fire as people light thousands of candles. Bells ring, ships sound their horns, fireworks are set off and the streets never seem so alive.

However, following Sunday’s ubiquitous feast of lamb on the spit, most Greeks seem to go into a coma. Athens turns into something like a large empty village, already half-empty from before Good Friday as people left to stay with relatives across the country.

Tourist websites like TripAdvisor and others are full of worried visitors wondering if transport services and businesses will be open on Monday.

But, life goes on, and many of the major attractions in the capital will be open, even if only for half a day, or in the mornings only. Transport will run too, but at a reduced service in some areas.