Easter in Corfu
Very probably the most famous Easter in all of Orthodoxy, Easter in Corfu is both worldly and solemn. It is dramatic but humble. It is both sober and joyous.
In contrast with the rest of Greece, Easter in Corfu is not limited to the Resurrection and Easter Day but actually begins the week before.
Easter in Corfu, a unique sequence.
The Sunday before Easter Sunday is an Orthodox feast day, which in Corfu is celebrated with a vast procession. St Spyridon is the patron saint of the island and this day is a commemoration of the day he saved the island from plague in 1629. The procession of St Spyridon’s holy relic is accompanied by the marching bands of the island’s philharmonic orchestras and a procession is made around the entire Old Town of Corfu to pay homage to the saint in gratitude for the miracle.Following this is Holy Week during which people flock to the churches of the city and the villages. During this week the first Easter visitors begin to arrive. Greek and foreign tourists, Corfiots who live abroad returning home for the holiday and students returning from their studies. By Thursday of Holy Week the island is filled to capacity with people.
Then on Holy Thursday afternoon, the casual and formal events begin. A popular informal event is the band rehearsal at the Old Philharmonic building in a central pedestrian street of the Old Town. After 7 pm people gather outside to hear the musicians rehearse the mournful Good Friday marches until they perform them perfectly. Meanwhile, the restaurants, bars and cafes fill up with people creating a bustling, lively atmosphere.
Τhe great thrillOn Good Friday morning, the churches celebrate the sacrament of the Deposition, the worshippers attending it reverently. At noon, the mourning processions from the churches of the city and the villages begin. Schoolchildren, scouts, volunteers and Navy sailors walk behind the epitaph, joined by the mournful sounds of the accompanying brass band. The worshippers follow the procession and the town fills with a snaking column of people walking slowly in an emotional mood of devotion. This goes on until 10pm, when the grand epitaph of the city’s Cathedral, takes over the streets and participants. A magnificent procession leaves the Cathedral and proceeds to cross the whole city carrying the heart-rending sounds of Jesus’ death. The people wait eagerly to hear Albinoni’s Adagio and the sound of its musical climax echoing through Corfu’s narrow streets can bring tears to the eyes. The city then settles down after midnight but only for a few hours.
In the morning, before 9 o’clock, crowds of people start to line the streets for the morning Epitaph of Easter Saturday. This starts from St. Spyridon’s Church with the holy relic preceding the epitaph. This procession also commemorates another miracle of the Saint, when he saved the island from famine in 1553. Faccio’s musical piece Hamlet takes centre stage, vibrating through the hearts of the faithful, telling the story of the martyrdom and death of Jesus.
The highlightAt 11 am the atmosphere changes dramatically. It is well known that the windows of houses around the town will open and people will come out on the balconies. As soon as the bells ring, signalling that the time is 11am, large and small clay pots are dropped from the balconies to fall and smash with force in the pedestrian streets. This symbolises the casting out of evil and the beginning of fertility in Corfu every Easter.
By now the city is literally filled with tens of thousands of people, among them many celebrities who come to enjoy Corfu’s spectacular Easter, which has a cosmic, festive atmosphere unlike any other.
Mezes with ouzo or chilled white wine, groups of friends enjoying the glorious spring weather, people enthralled by the mystery and customs of Corfu’s Easter, smilingly await the great event of the Resurrection.
At 10pm, after a short break, people again pour into the central square area. There, just before midnight, mass is said by the bishop and is heard over loudspeakers by all present. At the stroke of midnight, the impressive, sparkling, colourful and unique fireworks display is launched from the imposing Old Fortress, sending shooting colours high into the night sky. Thousands of cheers echo through the air and as many smiles shine in the light of the candles.
As the night ends, the rivers of people head home with lit candles in their hands or to restaurants for the traditional Easter fare, such as Mageiritsa. This is a very tasty soup like dish made from offal that everyone craves after the mourning fast.
Orthodoxy’s most famous Easter ends with Easter Sunday in the open-air taverns. Lamb cooked on the spit and red dyed eggs are the traditional culinary delights of the day.
Memory of a lifetime!
Once you experience Easter in Corfu, you’ll remember it forever. It is a magical experience where residents and visitors alike participate in an entrancing story of solemnity and joy. Everything is well organized and yet everything has been born spontaneously, through the faith, customs, and dedication of the residents who created it over time.
If you are planning to visit Corfu, Easter is absolutely the perfect time to do so! Check in time for availability of Nostalgia Corfu Apartments here.