When Greek Orthodox Easter comes as late in the year as this, visitors and locals alike, have the added blessings of springtime rapturous beauty and even their first swim in the sea.
Why not take some time to familiarize yourself with the customs of the upcoming “Holy Week” and get ready to participate as a local?
On Palm Sunday the streets of Corfu are filled by people hoping to catch a glimpse of the Holy Shrine of Saint Spyridon.
On the day that Jesus was received in Jerusalem under palms waved in his honour, the island of Corfu commemorates the blessing of its own deliverance from the deadly 17th century plague by St. Spyridon the miracle worker.
Remember to appreciate these precious moments of festive togetherness, while slowly moving around the old Venetian city-walls of Corfu Town, while accompanied by the sounds of the island’s 18 Philharmonic orchestras.
Holy Monday officially marks the beginning of the Holy Week and Easter preparations.
The stores and shops of the town have already started their festive opening hours, while the first scents of “fogaccia”, “mantolato” and “colombina” come to remind us that Easter is only a few days away.
On Holy Tuesday, follow the path “from Golgotha to the Resurrection” by listening to the “Hymn of Kassiani” during the evening’s religious service.
A separate Music Poetry Night with the same title, has also been established on this evening and is held in the splendid surroundings of the Old Palace of St. Michael and St. George, with old Venetian fortifications and turrets overlooking the bay as ships sail passing by.
On Holy Wednesday, the Municipal Choir of Corfu continues the rich musical tradition that characterises Easter in Corfu: ecclesiastic hymns and melodies from the East and the West fill the Municipal Theatre at 08:30 p.m.
On Maundy Thursday, the ‘believer’ follows spiritually the ascent to Golgotha, the Passion and the Crucifixion through the 12 Gospels read in church tonight. The sound of the nails on the holy cross can be a truly poignant experience, while the choirs chant “Today He is Hung upon the Cross”.
Followers gathered in front of the Roman Catholic Cathedral (the Duomo) hold 12 candles. At the end of every Gospel reading, one candle is put out – the world being symbolically left in the dark by the end of this rite.
This is also the day of dying eggs red, an allegory of death and rebirth. This custom is common for all regions in Greece, and represents a moment that kids always enjoy and are involved in, in every home.
Good Friday bears the quintessence of the whole week’s devoutness, mysticism and compassion.
To experience what Good Friday ‘feels like’ start your day early. Shops and services are closed, in symbolic mourning, during the morning ceremony of the Descent of the Lord. The body of Jesus is placed in the Epitaph, the flower clad tomb that is created in every church and exposed to pilgrims under the funerary sounds of the bells.
At 14:00 p.m. start the first church Epitaphs through the streets of Corfu Town and last until 22:00 p.m at night.
The frequency of processions throughout the day, their beautiful decoration and the musical culture that accompanies them, make them the most impressive in Greece. It is worth mentioning that the schedule of processions is very specific, so that the philharmonics can have the time to accompany all of them, with every orchestra having its own repertoire: Adagio of Albinioni, Marcia Funebre of Verdi, Funeral March of Chopin, Sventura of Mariani, among others.
Street lights have been turned to mauve, the colour of mourning, while the sound of funeral marches rises up between the typical high rise buildings of this UNESCO World Heritage Town.
Choirs, candles, and eerie kind of silence, create a deeply moving and heart warming atmosphere. You may indeed feel privileged to experience Corfu at this very moment!
This is also the last of 40 days of fasting since the beginning of lent. The sombre mood that permeates the island is soon to be lifted by the unique Corfiot celebrations of Easter Saturday.
If you are to get a good viewing spot on Easter Saturday morning make sure you get to town early. Listening to ‘Amlet’ that accompanies the litany at 09:00 a.m. is a pilgrimage in itself. By 10:30 Corfu Town is buzzing with excitement and anticipation while huge terracotta pots start appearing on balconies and high rise windows.
Yup! At 11:00 o’clock sharp all the town’s church bells start ringing and pots filled with water go flying out the windows smashing down bellow.
The music turns celebratory and the marching bands almost come dancing down the main streets of Corfu. At midnight one of the largest squares in the Balkans is flooded by candle light and we swear that the firework display is simply sensational.
There is nothing quite like the Easter in Corfu experience the world over.