Easter in Kerkyra (Corfu)

Easter is just a couple of days away.

We could have written a post about Easter eggs, about Catholic versus Orthodox Easter (on the same day this year) or about Tsoureki (a traditional sweet Easter bread)

But….

1/ We’ll prepare our Easter eggs today and I don’t have yet a decent picture to use

2/ Time is running out to carry out the necessary research and embark in a religious comparison

3/ I would have liked to share our recipe for Tsoureki, with tips on where to find the right ingredients but so far, I failed to produce a decent one myself! I will persevere and maybe (most probably) swollow my pride and ask my Greek mother in Law to share her secret again. Her Tsoureki is definitely the best.

Instead, we wanted to share the experience of one of the most traditional Easter ever.

We were lucky enough, few years back, to spend the Easter week in Kerkyra (the Greek Island of Corfu).

Everything from the colours, the smells, the warmth of the people and the places we visited enchanted us. Easter celebrations are intense and emotional, filled with music and parades.

The Holy Week ceremonies begin on Palm Sunday (The Sunday preceding Easter). In the morning, the litany of the Holy Shrine of Saint Spyridon takes place in recognition of the miraculous deliverance of the island from the spread of the deadly plague in 1629. This litany is the largest in size and length, and follows the trail of the old Venetian city walls. All the Philharmonics (brass bands) of the island participate to honour the Patron Saint of Corfu. On the same night, the “Mántzaros” Philharmonic give a concert which introduces the Holy Week beautifully.

On Good Monday, Corfiots start preparing the celebrations to come. They might bake ‘foyátsa’ (or Tsoureki – mentioned above) decorated with a red egg. They also make mandolato, the equivalent of nougat, with almond and honey.

On Good Tuesday. In the afternoon, they tell the story of Mary Magdalene, “hymned” at the city churches.

On Good Wednesday the Corfiots attend the Holy Unction, and in the evening they can enjoy the Municipal Chorus singing ecclesiastical hymns.

On Holy Thursday, the Holy Passion mass is held in churches. On the same day, the ringing of the first bell means it is time for the Easter eggs to be dyed red, a custom that symbolises the rebirth of life and nature.

On Good Friday, religious ceremonies commemorate the Descent of Christ from the Cross. The Corfu Cathedral Epitaph (a religious icon) makes its appearance at 10pm, followed across the streets of Kerkyra’s capital by locals, tourists and Philharmonic bands playing mournful music.

On Easter Saturday after the Resurrection is announced. People say the phrase “Christós Anésti” (Christ is risen) to one another. The response is “Alithós Anésti” (he has truly risen). This takes place against a background of ringing bells, brass bands playing music while parading through the streets and… the sound of clay pots breaking! In a display of joy, Locals throw clay pots from windows and balconies, which crash noisily on the streets below. This custom is truly spectacular.

The Resurrection of Christ is celebrated at midnight with drum beats and fireworks.

Happy Easter!

Clay pots flying from the sky...

Clay pots flying from the sky…

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Categories: Places, Traditions

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