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The Easter Rocket War of Vrontados

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Every Easter, in the Greek village of Vrontados, members of rival churches sitting across a small valley stage a "rocket war" by firing thousands of homemade rockets towards each other while services are held. The objective for each side is to strike the bell of the opposing church. The festival, called Rouketopolemos, has been celebrated by the churches of Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani for at least 125 years, its exact origins a mystery. Gathered here are images of this rocket war from the past few years. [26 photos]

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Rockets fly over bell tower of Agios Markos church during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on the eastern Aegean island of Chios on April 26, 2008. Two rival parishes of Vrontados village fire thousands of rockets every Easter Saturday aiming at the opposing church's bell tower in a centuries-old tradition. (Reuters/Yiorgos Karahalis)
Rockets fly over bell tower of Agios Markos church during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on the eastern Aegean island of Chios on April 26, 2008. Two rival parishes of Vrontados village fire thousands of rockets every Easter Saturday aiming at the opposing church's bell tower in a centuries-old tradition. (Reuters/Yiorgos Karahalis)
Yannis, left, and Stavros, right, load handmade rockets on a truck, in front of Agios Markos church, on the Aegean island of Chios, on April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) #
Rockets are arranged before being fired at the Panagia Erithiani church during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on the Aegean island of Chios, on April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) #
Hand-made rockets are prepared before being fired at the Agios Markos church during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations in Vrontados on April 26, 2008. (Reuters/Yiorgos Karahalis) #
A participant fires a rocket against the target, the Panagia Erithiani church, from a launching platform in the village of Vrontados on April 19, 2014. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images) #
A woman walks out of her screen-protected home during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations in Vrontados village, on April 26, 2008. (Reuters/Yiorgos Karahalis) #
People ignite homemade rockets during aimed at a rival church in Vrontados on April 19, 2014. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images) #
A youth ignites homemade rockets during a traditional Easter celebration in Vrontados on April 19, 2014. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images) #
Rockets fly through the sky targeting the churches of Agios Markos, left, and Panagia Erithiani, right, during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) #
Homemade rockets streak through the sky targeting a church of Panagia Erithiani on April 19, 2014. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images) #
A rocket strikes the bell tower of Agios Markos church on April 26, 2008. (Reuters/Yiorgos Karahalis) #
Rockets fly over the church of Agios Markos as worshippers hold candles during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on the eastern Aegean island of Chios, on April 19, 2014 in Vrontados, Greece. (Milos Bicanski/Getty Images) #
A youth ignites homemade rockets during Easter celebrations in Vrontados on April 19, 2014. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images) #
Young men ignite rockets during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on the island of Chios on April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) #
Rockets fly towards the church of Agios Markos during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) #
Homemade rockets streak through the sky above Vrontados on April 19, 2014. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images) #
A man ignites rockets in Vrontados on April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) #
Rockets fly over the bell towel of Panagia Erithiani church on April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) #
Rockets fly over Vrontados village on April 26, 2008, as rival parishes of the village fire thousands of rockets at each other. (Reuters/Yiorgos Karahalis) #
A reveler looks on during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations in Vrontados on April 19, 2014. (Milos Bicanski/Getty Images) #
Revelers ignite rockets during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on April 19, 2014 in Vrontados, Greece. (Milos Bicanski/Getty Images) #
Homemade rockets streak through the sky targeting the church of Panagia Erithiani, on April 19, 2014. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images) #
Participants ignite homemade rockets in the village of Vrontados late on April 19, 2014. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images) #
Young men launch rockets during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on the Aegean island of Chios on April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) #
Rockets fly over Panagia Erithriani church on April 26, 2008. (Reuters/Yiorgos Karahalis) #
A woman walks near scores of burned-out homemade rockets on the ground, and stuck in a protective metal fence at Panagia Erithiani church, following a traditional Easter celebration the night before in Vrontados, on April 20, 2014. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images) #

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