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By the time it gets to Easter on the island of Crete, fasting locals in Chania are raring for a feast. But as Guy Dimond discovered, the city’s tavernas are mostly closed – unless you have a personal invitation

hungry traveller.

It was late evening. A driver pulled alongside our car, gesturing to roll down the window. His face looked spooky, half-lit by a flickering candle held in his far hand. “Get into Chania soon or you’ll miss it,” he uttered, then drove off, dripping candle still in hand. In the distance, we could hear fireworks exploding.

It wasn’t just any flame he held. Candle to candle, this ancient flame had been carried from Jerusalem in the annual ‘holy fire’ ceremony that symbolises peace, eternity and renewal, and is traditionally spread to light every church in Greece on Easter Saturday.

It was the last day of Lent, and it was nearly time for Greeks to break 40 days of austerity and fasting. In Chania, in western Crete, shops and tavernas were closed, traffic silenced. We joined the crowds walking to mass, bearing lit candles. Strangers greeted each other, and us, with “Christos anesti” (Christ has risen), to which the correct response is “Alithos anesti” (truly he has risen).

At 11pm, we were just in time to catch the final hymns at Agios Nikolaos, one of two medieval Orthodox churches in Chania’s Old Town. The packed square outside the church reverberated with voices raised in Byzantine song.

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About delicious. Magazine

The March issue of delicious. is packed with crowdpleasing recipes from Thomasina Miers, Raymond Blanc, Gill Meller, Mary Berry and venerable vegetarian restaurant Mildreds. There are also spectacular cakes and bakes from experts John Whaite, Chetna Makan, Bea Vo and Richard Bertinet, not forgetting those Easter must-haves – hot cross buns from Gail’s bakery. Plus we’ve got a pull-out brunch special, cool Scandi recipes and the ultimate banoffee pie. This could be your best Easter ever!

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