Rouketopolemos (Rocket War) — Vrontados, Greece
If you want a relaxing Easter, this Greek town of the island of Chios is the last place you want to find yourself. The town’s two churches, Angios Marcos and Panaghia Ereithiani are located on two hilltops around half a kilometre apart, and the object of Rouketopolemos, or Rocket War, is to aim fireworks at the bell tower of the opposing church. The church that scores the most direct hits on the opposite tower is declared the winner.
The tradition dates back to before the Ottoman Empire, when the “war” was fought with real cannon, until the Ottomans put an end to that nonsense. It’s controversial to this day though, as local houses and businesses have to be covered with protective metal sheets and mesh; fires have been started by wayward rockets in the past, leading, very occasionally, to fatalities.
The rockets number in their thousands, and the bombardment continues for hours, so when the morning comes the victor is supposed to be the one with the fewest burn marks on their bell tower, but of course no one can say exactly which marks are new or not.
This leads to both sides claiming victory, the result of this “disagreement” being that they agree to “settle this for good next year”, leading to a perpetual reason to keep doing it.
Many residents are very much against the practice for obvious reasons, but it is a source of a lot of tourism for the island, and it looks like this festival will continue for the foreseeable future.