(Vrontados, Chios, Greece) – Traditional Rocket War that takes place over Easter in Vrontados on the Greek Island of Chios was canceled this year for the first time in over 100 years. This move was due to a pending lawsuit between inhabitants on the island and the company that makes the rockets. The Rocket War, or Rouketopolemos as it is referred to in Greek, is an event where two Orthodox Churches,Saint Mark and Panaghia Erithiani, volley thousands of rockets at each other on Easter. It is a lively tradition that draws in crowds from all over the world.
It is a tradition that originated back when Greece was occupied by the Ottoman Empire. The original reason it began is lost. There are, however, two main theories. Some say that the tradition began in the 1800’s around the time that the Ottomans confiscated people’s cannons, fearing that they would be used by the Greeks to incite a rebellion. In response to this, the locals began shooting off rockets. The other theory is that the rockets were used as a way to help the Greeks celebrate Christian Easter during the occupation. The rockets were designed to prevent the Turks from venturing too close to the churches so that the people could have their Easter services. From there, the tradition developed into the elaborate event that it is today. Except for this year.
The main goal of the Rocket Wars is to give people a show. No one is supposed to get hurt. However, injuries inevitably occur. This year, some citizens took a stand against these injuries, so they sued the rocket makers. As a result, this event had to be canceled. Part of the problem is that as word of the Rocket Wars spread throughout the world, this attracted more visitors to the island than had ever witnessed the event. When the “Wars” only attracted locals, the chances of getting injured were much less. As it increased in popularity, injuries were more frequent. As a result of this popularity, lawmakers have also gotten involved. The hope is that lawmakers, rocket manufacturers, and locals will come to an agreement before next Easter so that the tradition could resume.