Holy Week events in Corfu
Celebrations and events in Corfu for Easter are unique, and attract visitors from other parts of Greece who mingle with local people and foreign tourists watching the processions, taking part in the services, and enjoying all the festivities.
It is the climax of the Greek Orthodox year, led up to by the forty days of Lent, which itself begins with a party- Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday), when families go out flying kites on the long golden sand beaches, or on the slopes of Mount Pantocrator, and eating shellfish and other fasting food.
Corfu’s Easter really begins on Palm Sunday when St Spyridon is carried round town, with services held at various points along the way.
His procession is extremely colourful, led by the bishop and surrounded by the priests in brightly coloured robes.
It is preceded by the bands from Corfu Town and outlying villages, and the whole town seems full of music.
In a way it is the overture to the celebrations of Holy Week, when there are daily services, the religious intensity rising each day.
Anyone who wants to join in would be wise to look at one of the religious websites explaining the content and meaning of each service.
A particularly beautiful one is the Good Friday morning service when the body of the dead Christ is taken off the cross on the altar and symbolically wrapped in a winding sheet.
From the Friday morning onwards there is a sense of expectancy in the air, and visitors pour in by air and ferry, filling the island’s hotels as the celebrations rise in a crescendo, culminating in the midnight mass on Easter Saturday night, celebrated out of doors, weather permitting.
Greek easter processions
Visitors in their thousands are attracted by the processions which are unique to Corfu.
On Good Friday afternoon the ‘Epitaphios’ processions begin with the figure of the dead Christ carried at its heart.
The most spectacular one leaves from the Metropolis, or Cathedral about 9.3opm. It winds its way along the Mouragia, and down the slope to the Spianada.
Its route is strewn with red and white flowers, and the streets are lined with people with lighted candles.
One of the most beautiful Orthodox chants is sung, and even the lights on the Liston are shrouded in purple, the colour of mourning.
Every village has its Epitaphios, often accompanied by the town band and it is possible to see several during the afternoon and evening.
A particularly beautiful one is in the village of Gastouri when, led the band, the people go in procession up to the Achilleon Palace.
On Easter Saturday morning St Spyridon is taken in procession round town in procession, accompanied as always by the bishop and clergy, and the bands.
It is spectacular, but very crowded, to get a good place you need to be in the main square area by about 8am.
St Spyridon’s procession ends just before 11am when the bells peal out and Corfu’s most unusual event occurs.
Pots of all shapes and sizes, many filled with water, are thrown out of windows in the buildings of the old town.
This is called the ‘First Resurrection’.
Great jubilation ensures now, the bands march round town playing secular music, there is dancing, wrestling, and general jollity.
Easter Saturday night and the resurrection mass is the highlight of the year.
Roads into Corfu Town are choked with traffic, and those who do not like crowds have the chance to experience the mass in every village on the island, often in a specially erected bandstand, as in Benitses.
The service starts in the churches but about 11.30pm it moves in procession out of doors.
Everyone waits with their candle, and at midnight the priest cries out ‘Xristos Anesti’ (Christ is risen).
Fireworks go off, and the rest of the service is drowned by their bangs.
Friends greet each other with the traditional greeting ‘Xristos Anesti’ to which the response is ‘Alithos anesti’-
He is risen indeed.
Red eggs are cracked, and families go to break their fast with the Easter soup- mayeritsa, made from the internal organs of the lamb they will roast on the spit the following day.
Highlights with photos from holy week
Here you can view photos and highlights from all the events of Easter from previous years