Considered the ultimate Hellenic celebration, Easter in Corfu town is without a doubt a spectacular event. Thousands of visitors gather each year to be part of this joyous, unique and spectacular experience. Of course, it is not just a matter of religion, but a matter of culture and whether you are a believer or not you need to witness it at least once in your lifetime.
Easter Celebrations In Corfu Town
Easter in Corfu is one of the bigger festivals of the Orthodox church, with celebrations found nowhere else, so it is the perfect excuse to visit Corfu during springtime. Celebrations last for a week and, combined with a week of sailing, it is a unique experience. You can participate in the celebrations of your choice, and if the weather allows it (usually it does) you can even go swimming and get a taste of summer vacation on board. To get a glimpse of what to expect, keep reading!
Celebrations always start a week before Easter and they go like that:
You will have the chance to witness a custom that is dating back to 1630. All 15 philarmonic bands of the island take part in the procession of the holy body of Saint Spyridon, the protector of Corfu Island, who it is believed relieved the whole island from Plague in 1629. Then you can have lunch and enjoy the traditional meal of the day: codfish with garlic-flavored mashed potatoes.
Great Monday and Tuesday
If you walk among the alleys of the old town of Corfu you will smell the perfume of “fogatsa” (a brioche decorated with a red egg) and “mandolato” (a noble’s favorite macaroon made of almond and honey), which we undoubtedly recommend getting a taste of. If you happen to stroll in the city on the afternoon of Tuesday you will get the chance to listen to the story of Mary Magdalene “hymned” at the city churches.
During Wednesday the Holy Unction is sung by all the city’s churches and the Municipal Choir gives its own color with a concert at the Municipal Theatre. You will hear ecclesiastical hymns of the Passion Week with chorals from the East and the West.
The Service of the Holy Passion is attended by the Corfiots in the churches. In the Duomo, the Catholic Cathedral something different takes place. 12 different candles are lit and after the reading of each of the 12 Gospels, one by one is put out. On the same day, the first bell ring signals the time for the eggs to be dyed in the color red and the arrival of a day of mourning.
On Friday, the churches are filled with people before noon to take part in the ceremony of the Descent of Christ from the Cross and the circumambulation of the dead Christ on a white sheet. It is practically a funeral, so it is an emotional ceremony. Later, the children run on the neighborhoods to ask people for flowers to decorate the Epitaph. Each church has its own Epitaph and is decorated by young girls. Towards noon the faithful gather to the church for Epitaph pilgrimage. After that, the circumambulation of the Epitaphs on the streets alleys and squares of the old city and the suburbs starts. From the afternoon until late at night, Epitaphs will pass around the city and they will gather at the historic center. At the Epitaph processions take part schools, scouts and groups of little girls carrying baskets full of flowers. Late in the night, the procession of the last and the most impressive Epitaph of Corfu Cathedral starts. All the authorities, priests, locals and visitors participate in giving another dimension to this mournful night. The Old Philarmonic (red) plays the “Adagio” by Albinoni, the Mantzaros Philarmonic (blue) plays the “Marcia Funebre” by Verdi and Kapodistrias Philarmonic (red) plays “Sventura” by Mariani.
The day starts with the procession of the holy body of Saint Spyridon. It is accompanied by the popular philarmonic bands of Corfu that give an enjoyable vibe. At the same time, the procession of the Epitaph of the Church of Saint Spyridon takes place as well. At 11.00am the bells announce the morning resurrection and Corfiot people throw ceramic pots of the windows and balconies. It is believed that this habit was influenced by Venetians who would throw items on the New Year’s Eve in order for the New Year to bring them a lot of things. Another explanation is that by smashing things the loud noises would wake up Persephone, the goddess of spring, so that she would bring it.
During the night the Catholic Mass of the Resurrection takes place in Duomo with the accompaniment of the ecclesiastical organ. The service ends at 11.00pm where it is time for the Orthodox Resurrection to take place. The service happens at the kiosk of “Pano Plateia” where the bishop, the authorities, the philharmonics, locals, and visitors gather. It is a unique and phantasmagoric spectacle to witness. Thousands of candles are lit on the balconies, the windows and the hands of the present people. The Resurrection of Christ is celebrated at 12.00 with fireworks and drumbeats. When the service is over the philharmonics play cheerful marches around the city.
The day begins with the procession of the icon of resurrection around the town and the villages. Then it is time for the festive meal everyone was waiting for since the 40 days of fasting began. Roasted lamb on the spit, red eggs that were dyed on Maudy Thursday, fogatsa, wine and mostly a lot of music, dancing, and singing. This day, the Naval Station of Corfu in the new fortress is open to the public with its feast. In the afternoon the locals go to church again for the “Service of Love”. The priest embraces and kisses everyone and t people kiss the Gospel and the hand of the priest.
And this is how Corfiots celebrate Easter! It is a unique celebration, nowhere to be found anywhere else in Greece, so many people from all over the country gather here to witness it. It is a beautiful spectacle, so we recommend planning your Easter Holidays in Corfu Town to witness it al least once with your eyes. After all, it’s just another excuse for sailing in the Ionian Sea while enjoying a local tradition!