Easter on Corfu is the main celebration of the year, with literally thousands of tourists, both foreign and Greek coming to the island, it is very special, with a mixture of ecclesiastical, civic and military pomp and ceremony, all with the backdrop of the incredible architecture of Corfu town, which is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
MAIN EVENTS FOR THE EASTER WEEK –
The Sunday before Easter – The first ceremony of the Easter period starts at 11 o’clock on Sunday morning when the body of Saint Spyridon, the Patron Saint of the Island, is carried through the streets of Corfu Old Town. Saint Spyridon was made a saint as it was said that he performed many miracles, even some after his death. Today though marks the one where he saved the island from a great plague in 1629.
The next week every day is called Megali Deftera [“Big Monday”], Megali Triti [“Big Tuesday”] etc to mark the last days before the weekend.
Each church holds its own procession to mark the memory of Christ’s burial. The processions are led by the epitaph, with bands or choirs following and then the congregation.
EASTER SATURDAY [Big Saturday!]
At 6 am in the church of St. Mary there is a mass that is for the earthquake described in the bible after Jesus’ resurrection. At 9 am, the epitaph starts from the St. Spyridon church along with the best of the philharmonic bands of the island. This time St. Spyridon was said to have saved the island from famine in 1550.
By 11 am the streets in the Liston and esplanade have been cleared to witness the tradition of pots filled with water, being thrown from the balconies above, no one is exactly sure why, some people say the pots were thrown to show anger at Judas betrayal of Jesus, others that it was a pagan tradition to throw out the old pots and bring in new ones for the spring harvest! Either way, don’t blink or you will miss it! The windows were a pot will be thrown are marked by red cloths. This tradition is unique to Corfu and the town is usually full of people creating a really fantastic atmosphere! Make sure you pick up a small piece of the smashed pots and you will have good luck all year!
By 11 o’clock in the evening, everyone gathers in the Esplanade while the Holy mass takes place in the bandstand and everyone holds a candle, creating a truly unique atmosphere. Then at midnight, the second resurrection is celebrated by the priest saying “Christos Anesti” [Christ is risen] and an amazing firework display erupts form the top of the Old fortress.
If you do not want to go to the main town, Benitses holds its own holy mass and fireworks display, it may not be quite so grand as the town fireworks, but the atmosphere is just as special and you can see the town fireworks in the background! Some local tavernas are then serving the traditional “mayeritsa” soup, which you may want to try [or may not once you find out what it is made of – not one for the vegetarians!]
At 7 o’clock in the morning, the congregation from all Corfu Town churches comes out on to the streets with a symbol of resurrection, together with school students, philharmonic bands and choirs. This day is also the last day of 40 days fasting and therefore on Sunday afternoon most Greek families grill a whole lamb and have a big feast to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.
So join us this year to eat, drink and make merry!