Easter in Corfu- A unique experience
For Greeks, Easter is the greatest religious celebration of the year, typically falling a few weeks later than the Catholic one. Greek Easter is also the favourite holiday of locals, greatly celebrated with exciting customs and traditions in every corner of the country, including the Greek mainland and the islands!
Corfiot Easter is considered the most famous in Greece, with the island flocking down with thousands of visitors from Greece and abroad who want to be part of this unique experience! Corfu boasts something really extraordinary when it comes to Easter celebrations! But what is it that makes Corfiot Easter so special? Let’s embark on a magical journey to Easter in Corfu and discover all those unique traditions and customs that make it something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime!
St. Spyridon Palm Sunday Litany Photo - credits:
Easter celebrations in Corfu officially kick off on Palm Sunday, aka ''Kiriaki ton Vaion'' or ''Ton Vagione'' by locals. Palm Sunday commemorates Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the Resurrection of Lazarus. In Corfu, Palm Sunday is celebrated with the procession of the Holy Shrine of Saint Spyridon - the island’s patron saint - which takes place in Corfu Town at 11.00 am in the morning. This litany is in remembrance of a big miracle by Saint Spyridon in 1630, when he saved the island from an epidemic of plague. An interesting fact is that this is the only litany in Corfu where all the 18 Philharmonic bands of the island participate. After the end of the litany, families and friends gather around the table to share a traditional lunch which typically includes Bakaliaros Skordalia- fried cod fish with traditional garlic dip sauce. In the evening of Palm Sunday, there is a concert by the Philharmonic Society Mantzaros at the Municipal Theatre.
Traditional Easter Specialties
Holy Monday marks the beginning of the Holy Week or 'Megali Evdomada', the most special week of the year filled with festivities, symbolic events and wonderful customs dedicated to the celebration of Easter. Today, the lights of the island are illuminated in purple as a sign of mourning including the lanterns of Liston, the cross on top of the Old Fortress, the Old Palace of St. Michael and St. George but the streets of the island illuminated in purple. Holy Monday is typically dedicated to Easter shopping, with the picturesque Kantounia - Corfu’s narrow streets- flocking down with locals popping in and out the shops! Streets are filled with wonderful aromas from freshly prepared, special delicacies including Fogatsa or Kolompina- Corfu’s traditional Easter sweet yeast bread with a red colored egg in the middle - Paschalina Koulourakia- Traditional Easter Cookies, Mantolato -traditional soft nougat with mastic and peanuts and chocolate Easter Eggs. A highlight of the Easter shopping are the distinctive Red Botides, clay pots filled with water, which locals throw from their windows during the famous Easter Saturday Corfu Pot Throwing Event. On Holy Monday evening, church bells are ringing all around the island, inviting everyone to join the evening service.
From Golgotha to Resurrection Musical & Poetic Night Photo - credits:
Holy Tuesday celebrates the Holy Gospel, which refers to Christ’s denunciation against the religious leaders of Israel, the Secretaries and the Pharisees and also commemorates the Parable of the Ten Virgins — one of the most popular of all Jesus’ parables- and the Parable of Talents- a parable that shows us that God rewards those who put considerable effort into bettering their lives and the lives of those in their community. In the evening, the beautiful and inspiring Hymn of Kassiani, telling the story of the female Byzantine abbess, poet, composer, and hymnographer, is chanted in every church of Corfu but also of Greece. The Hymn of Kassiani is one of the many hymns composed by one of the few women known to have been writing music during Byzantine times.The highlight of the day is the Musical and Poetic Night ''From Golgotha to Resurrection'', organized by the Organization of Corfiot Activities and taking place at the Peristyle of the Palace of Saint Michael and Saint George at approximately 21.00.
Holy Week Melodies Concert by the Municipal Choir - credits:
In the afternoon of Holy Wednesday, locals head to the churches to attend the Sacrament of Holy Unction, in remembrance of the act of Christ’s anointing with myrrh by a “sinful woman” before his crucifixion. The priest also anoints the faithful with the Holy Oil blessed by the Holy Spirit as he makes the sign of the cross on the forehead , which is offered for the healing of soul and body and for the forgiveness of sins. In the evening, Corfiots head to the Municipal Theatre to attend the ecclesiastical and Holy Week melodies concert by the Municipal Choir.
Red Easter Eggs - credits: vradini.gr
Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. This is also the day when Greeks dye eggs red - the red colour symbolizes the blood of Christ and the egg symbolizes the empty rock tomb from which Jesus Christ arose after Ηis Crucifixion. Red eggs are an important part of the Greek Easter traditions and are used in the popular ''Red Egg Cracking game'' which takes place on Easter Sunday lunch. Apart from red eggs, local also bake traditional Easter cookies and tsourekia - the special sweet Easter buns- usually including a red egg in the middle. On Thursday evening, locals attend the evening church service where the reading of the Twelve Gospels is conducted. Another special fact is that although the Catholic Easter is not celebrated same days In the Catholic Cathedral Duomo of Corfu, 12 different candles are lit and after the reading of each of the 12 Gospels, one by one is put out.
Liston Purple Lighting - credits: kerkyrasimera.gr
Good Friday is the most important day of the Holy Week, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. It is a day of sadness, penance, and fasting. Starting from early in the afternoon, the picturesque streets, alleyways and squares of Corfu fill with dozens of Epitaphs crossing the centre of the Town, and often intersecting with each other. The first epitaph comes out of the church of Panagia Spileotissa at the New Fortress, followed by the epitaph of Pantokrator’s church in Campiello. The epitaphs are accompanied by the philharmonic bands of the island, and followed by people walking slowing, holding candles and singing psalms, creating a really magical atmosphere. The last and most impressive epitaph of the Day is the epitaph of the Cathedral of Corfu which starts at approximately 22.00 and ends at midnight. This epitaph is also accompanied by biggest philharmonic bands of the islandand is renowned for its unique melodies including the Albinoni’s Adagio by the ''Old'' (Red) Philharmonic, , the Mariani’s Elegia Funebre and Chopin’s Marche Funèbre by The ‘Kapodistria’s’ Philharmonic and Verdi’s ‘Marcia Funebre’ by ‘Mantzaros Philharmonic’ .
Corfu Pot Throwing Event - credits: enimerosi.com
The events and customs of Easter Saturday are perhaps the main reason that make Easter in Corfu so special! At 6 o’ clock in the morning, locals head to the church of “Virgin Mary of foreigners” where an ''artificial earthquake'' is created to represent the earthquake that took place during the resurrection, according to the Holy Bible. At 09.00 am the litany of the relics of St. Spyridon takes place in commemoration of Saint Spyridon, who saved the island from famine in 1550. Later in the morning at 11.00 am, the ''First Resurrection'’ takes place inside the churches of Corfu and celebrated with the famous Corfu Pot Throwing event- perhaps the most spectacular Easter event in Corfu! takes place! Thousands of locals and visitors flood Corfu Town who wish to experience this unique event that takes place only in Corfu. Tradition takes that locals throw ''Botides'' , the distinctive red clay pots filled with water, from their windows in an effort to get rid of the evil spirits. The official Resurrection takes place at the midnight of Good Saturday in Spianada Square and celebrated with exciting fireworks! The priest passes the Holy Flame throughout the congregation and everyone sings together “Christos AnestI'' (“Christ is Risen”).
Easter Sunday is a really joyful day when families and friends gather together to celebrate with a huge lunch which typically includes roast lamb on the spit, accompanied by a plethora of delicious Greek appetizers such as Tzatziki, Greek salad and tsoureki- the traditinal sweet Easter bread. Traditional Greek Music, dance, and Greek spirits ( ouzo, tsipouro or Greek wine) are also essential elements of the festive Easter Sunday Lunch! After lunch, it' time for the famous ''Egg Tapping Game'' called “tsougrisma” . Everyone selects a hard boiled egg from the basket- the red eggs have already been dyed on Easter Thursday. Players hold their eggs hit their eggs against each other with the goal of crocking them, first bottom-to-bottom, then when bottoms are broken – top to top. When a player’s egg is cracked on both sides, he or she is eliminated. The winner is the player that remains with an unbroken side of their egg!