The Greeks like to celebrate Easter with fireworks, but the townsfolk of Vrontados on the Greek island of Chios aren’t satisfied with simple fireworks. So on the midnight before Easter Sunday, supporters of two rival church congregations – Angios Marcos and Panaghia Ereithiani, gather near their respective churches located on two different hilltops about 400 meters away, and fire tens of thousands of home-made rockets across the valley towards each other. The objective is to hit the bell tower of the church of the other side. Direct hits on each belfry are counted and the parish with the most hits is determined the winner.
This local traditional event known as Rouketopolemos, literally Rocket-War, goes back at least to the Ottoman era. It is said that wars were originally fought with actual cannons until the Ottoman Empire banned that practice around 1889. Since then wooden rockets loaded with an explosive mixture containing gunpowder have been used.
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