Easter is seen as one of the holiest days of the Orthodox calendar, but for some it is not time for quiet contemplation, with the townsfolk of Vrontados on the Greek Island of Chios putting on a firework display to rival all others.
The midnight before Easter Sunday, two rival church congregations – that of Saint Marks and Panaghia Ereithiani – gather near their respective churches, located on different hilltops some 400 metres away, and fire around 25,000 homemade rockets across the valley towards each other.
The objective is to hit the bell tower of the church on the opposite side, direct hits are counted and the parish with the most hits is determined the winner. Each parish claims victory over the other, and the disagreement means that they parishes agree to settle the score next year.
The traditional event known as Rouketopolemos, translated as Rocket-war, originated in the ottoman era. It is said that during those times they were fought with actual cannons until the practice was banned in 1889. Since then wooden rockets loaded with an explosive mixture containing gunpowder has been used.
It is still dangerous practice and the nearby churches and buildings need to be boarded up with metal sheets and mesh to minimize damage, minor injuries are common with a small rockets sometimes straying into the odd bush. The next morning the remnants of the night before can be seen by the thousands of burnt out rockets that lie in the church yards.