Corfu is an island of festivals and colorful celebration, both cultural and religious. For those interested in buying property in Corfu, the island’s history, culture and elaborate Easter festival may add to Corfu’s attraction as a second home or regular getaway. In fact, though Easter festivities are almost a year away, Greeks and international tourists alike, are already making arrangements to be a part of celebration in Corfu.
The Easter celebration in Greece is the biggest of all religious celebrations—even larger than Christmas—and the festivities get started about six weeks prior to Easter Sunday with an event called Tsiknopempti, or “Smoke Thursday,” a time 11 days before lent to feast on grilled meats. Lent begins on a day called “Clean Monday,” which is 40 days before Easter. This family day of celebration features kite flying in the mountain peaks.
While Easter festivities take place all over Greece, the uniqueness and massive scale of the celebration in Corfu is noteworthy. There are colorful carnivals all over the country, but Corfu’s Karnavalos is of Venetian origin, in which a monster type figure stars as the head of a colorful parade. To get a taste of this striking figure, watch this video.
Before, during and after Easter week, Greeks and others of the Orthodox faith, as well as tourists from all over the world, flock to the island. Hotel rooms must be booked a year in advance for rooms that look out into the promenade.
Here are a few of the unique highlights:
- Palm Sunday features a procession of the holy body of Saint Spyridon, which is a custom that began in the early 1600s to celebrate the end of the deadly Plague on the island. All 15 philharmonic bands of the island take part in that procession.
- Good Fridaybands from the three Philharmonic Societies—separated into squads—accompany the Epitaph processions of the city churches. Late in the afternoon, the squads come together to form one band to accompany the Epitaph procession of the cathedral.
- On Holy Saturday morning, the three city bands again take part in the Epitaph processions of St. Spyridon Cathedral in procession with the Saint's relics. At this point the bands play different funeral marches. The custom dates from the 19th century, when colonial administrators banned the participation of the British garrison band in the traditional Holy Friday funeral cortege. The defiant Corfiotes held the litany the following morning, and paraded the relics of St. Spyridon too, so that the administrators would not dare intervene
- Easter Sunday begins with the procession of the icon of Resurrection around Corfu town and the villages, followed by a festive meal that might consist of lamb, red eggs, sweet wine and , of course, the music, singing and dancing that is characteristic of this festive island.
The week after Easter is referred to as New Week. This post-Easter celebration consists of processions and festivities on every island. Each time a church procession stops, people use small canons, to announce it. Canons were widespread during the Venetian rule as they were used to alert Corfu and the surrounding area of the whereabouts of pirates .
Corfu’s Easter celebration comes from deeply religious roots, but the art and music, which is born of cultural and historical diversity of this island make it a unique celebration for all to enjoy