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Easter in Greece: The “burning of Judas” tradition

The “burning of Judas” is a unique tradition which revives in areas of Greece every Easter, attracting crowds of people who want to admire the “punishment” of the avarice traitor. Nowadays, this tradition can express a strong need for shaking off any kind of betrayal.

The “Judas Iscariot” who betrayed Jesus for “thirty pieces of silver” has become the archetype of the traitor in Western art and literature, and to this day the custom of burning revived in many places around the Greece. In the old days, the transfer of the model was by donkey, adopting a highly traditional character.

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Nowadays, the burning of Judas is found in many variations throughout Greece and acts as a kind of exemplary punishment of treason in a general context. The success secret of this custom lies in the preparation of the model, while residents make Judah by fabrics, straw, and wood. The representation takes place at a high point of each region, offering the world attending, a spectacular sight.

The “burning of Judas” is usually enacted on the evening of Big Friday, simultaneously with the bearing of the Epitafios through the streets. Judas often likened to an ugly and crazy man and is often hanged by the neck before the burning.

The inhabitants of Lefkada believe that the fig tree, the tree from which Judas hung himself, “has a heavy shade and whoever slept underneath dies”. The same damn are considered to be the vromoxylia, or else Azogyras in Crete, and agriocharoupies in Aetolia, which indeed also called “trees of Judah.”

Being one of the few traditions maintained since the Ottoman period, the burning of “the traitor” is a separate section for Easter in Crete. In most parts of the island, “the Farmakos” (the Poisonous), is delivered to fires, with the necessary gunshots (mpalothies). In many villages of Thrace, the people burn the effigy of Judas, while the burning is a metaphor of the “destroy” of his greed and cowardice.

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In Hermione village, at the prefecture of Argolida in Peloponnese, the custom is revived at the main port. Boats with lighted smoke agents move circularly around the dummy, until the time of the burning.
The burning of Judas is a custom that characterizes the castle of Monemvasia. Among the narrow streets there are old mansions and arcades that prepare the ritual burning of Judas. The human dummy, filled with wood and straw sets on fire with spectacular manner with numeral fireworks.


The tradition has also been a venue for misunderstanding, as a 2005 U.S. State Department report criticized Greece for its annual “burning of the Jew”. This mistake came from the bad translation of the ritual title are confusing the Greek word for Judas (Ioudhas-pronounced Yoo-dhas), with the Greek word for Jew (Ioudhaios-pronounced Yoo-dhay-ose). We need to clarify that the burning of Judas is a religious tradition and has nothing to do with antisemitic feelings.