COVID-themed candles on sale in Greece for Orthodox Easter | Health, Medicine and Fitness

By DEREK GATOPOULOS and THANASSIS STAVRAKIS – Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Inside Greek Orthodox churches, candles are a symbol of faith and simplicity, slender and traditionally made of beeswax, and placed in tall candle holders filled with sand.

On the outside, shoppers are looking for a wow factor to accompany Easter gifts: they’re sold with dolls, watches and karaoke microphones, or made using dyes and molds in eye-catching designs that include beer bottles, smartphones and action heroes.

Best-selling Easter designs include pandemic-themed candles that look like COVID-19 test kits, vaccination syringes and even red-colored depictions of the ball-and-spike virus itself .

“This year, the COVID-test candle is definitely our best-seller,” says Giorgos Souliotis, who runs an online Easter candle store and seasonal goods store in the blue-collar neighborhood of Korydallos in Athens. one of the city’s most popular outlets for novelty candles. .

“People like to shed light on something that has touched us all so much. Last year, the best seller was a vaccination candle syringe,” he said.

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His store has over 100 designs, with candles that look like ice cream cones, sticks of dynamite, wrenches and skewers. He works with a team of graphic designers, artists and workshops, with the most intricate candles taking up to eight hours to make and selling for up to 20 euros ($22).

Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter this Sunday ‒ with a combination of religious and family traditions that Americans might consider a fusion of Christmas and Thanksgiving. It is marked by family meals, candlelit church gatherings, fireworks, and gifts to godchildren which must include the Easter candle.

Around three-quarters of Greeks have fulfilled their initial vaccination obligations and this year’s Easter celebrations will continue with the fewest restrictions in place since the pandemic began. This still includes mask and vaccination mandates in churches and many other shared indoor spaces, but shops and markets selling Easter goods are open.

“We’ve been through two Easter holidays selling products through our online store, but this year it’s different,” Souliotis said. “People like to come into the store. Hold the candles and just talk to us – It’s much better now.

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