Pascha P  A  S  C  H  A
     Easter in Corfu
 Easter in Greece
 is the most important 
 Orthodox Church Festival 
 with parades, fireworks, 
 and centuries-old celebrations,
                     but Easter in Corfu
                     is the most spectacular 
                    and impressive event of all.


Pas-cha - the most important recurring event on Corfu 

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rita wilson about easter "Why Easter is Greek to Me"

  Rita Wilson, Greek daughter and producer of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", shares her Easter memories.


Easter in Corfu 
Easter in Greece is the most important Orthodox Church Festival with parades, fireworks, and centuries-old celebrations,
but Easter in Corfu is the most spectacular and impressive event of all.
As it is completely different from anywhere else in Greece, it truly is unique and attracts thousands of visitors. Hotel rooms are usually scarce around the Easter season.
Every year, people from all parts in Greece and from many countries in the world come to Corfu to experience its special Easter tradition. The town gets busy and busier as from Good Friday until Easter Monday, and it is almost impossible to go there by car. The advice is to be ahead of the various scheduled events, catch a bus, or -if a 15 to 20 minute walk is an option for you- park outside town (for example in the area of Mandouki) and take a relaxing stroll downtown.
Since Corfu has such a significant musical tradition with nearly 20 live brass and philharmonic bands and particularly the town of Corfu has three big, renowned symphonic societies and their celebrated symphony orchestras and various music ensembles, the Corfu music bands will frame the most important Easter events.
The tradition in Corfu is that selected music will be performed by selected philharmonic bands on the specificially designated days like Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
The oldest prestigious band in Corfu are "the Paliá" or "the Old Philharmonic", founded in 1840. On Good Friday, the Paliá play the Adagio by Albioni. You will recognize the band from their dark blue uniforms with red stripes, the traditional colors of the Ionian Islands. The other two notable old bands, Mantzaros and Kapodistria play Marcia Funebre by Verdi, the Funeral March by Chopin and Sventura by Mariani.
Starting on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, there will be a great array of all musical bands of the island accompanying the traditional procession of St.Spyridon. All philharmonic bands take part. Former students and members from all over Greece and the whole world return to the island at Easter especially, to rejoin their philharmonic societies. Altogether there will be 2500 band members marching through the streets of Corfu! This is without doubt worthwile to experience up close!
St. Spyridon is the patron Saint of Corfu island and he is highly venerated since 1630, with four major commemoration celebrations every year.
The St. Spyridon ceremony starts at 11:00 in the Old Town.
Probably in memory of the purple kingly robe that was put on Jesus during his trial, purple has become a symbolic colour in Western and Eastern liturgy. The Byzantine Rite associates purple or dark red for Saturdays and Sundays during Lent. In Corfu all street lights are turned purple on Good Friday, especially for the night procession.

pascha easter corfu purple good friday procession epitaph byzantine rite liturgy lent street lights
On Good Friday will be the Epitaph processions in remembrance of Jesus Christ's burial. The mourning processions are somber and grave, the last one in the night a truly momentuous and moving funeral procession.
According to the Byzantine Rite, the Epitaphios is an icon depicting Christ's body after he has been removed from the cross. Christ's icon is displayed on a large embroidered cloth or on panel. In Christian art this image of Christ's body and Holy Mary mourning his death is also known as "the Pietà".
The Epitaph is carried on a funeral bier on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, as if Jesus Christ's body was virtually carried through Corfu's streets during the processions. Saturday in the night, at the eve of Easter the Epitaph is placed on the altar table in the church where it remains until the end of the Easter tide.

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The Epitaph processions are at several times during the day, the first one already very early in the morning.

The second one is an almost all-day lasting procession that starts at 16:00 in the afternoon at the Ag. Georgos Church in the Old Fortress. During this procession all individual churches -except the Agios Spiridon Church- start their own processions with their own funeral bier within their church parish. And again this will not be without the musical frame,  they are accompanied by one philharmonic band each or by sections of the bands that later in the day merge and come all together again.
The biggest of all Epitaph processions finally starts at 21:00 o' clock at night. It is the procession of the Ag. Spyridon Church, a majestic and most impressive procession, a tribute that at times literally chokes one with grief. Funeral marches, muffled drumming and somber beats and then silence again. Tragic but also beautiful.

The large procession is followed by members of the Metropolitan Church, the church choir, students of the various schools, the Boy Scouts and many other representations of spiritual and social life, like from the hospital and other institutions, young and old, all in their specific group uniform. And crowds of people line the streets to pay respect to the mourning procession.
The presence of so many people participating and so many coming to watch, so many marching bands and their sophisticated music...all this together is a unique experience that leaves you in awe.
The music played on Good Friday:
Adagio by Albioni
Marcia Funebre (from Verdi's opera 'Don Carlo')
Funeral March by Chopin
Sventura by Mariani
The music played on Holy Saturday:
Hamlet by Franco Faccio
Calde Lacrime (Hot Tears) by De Michelis
Eroica by Ludwig van Beethoven
pasxha paska easter corfu holy saturday
On Holy Saturday various ceremonies and events take place in the old town, in the various churches and in the villages of the island.
In Corfu, on Holy Saturday people start to celebrate a "First" Resurrection already.
"There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it." This is what the bible tells about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The bible also states the moment when Jesus died with an earthquake. It says "there was a violent earthquake and the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom".
On Holy Saturday at 6:00 o'clock in the morning, the bible referred earthquake is simulated in the church of Holy Mary.
A little later, in Agios Spyridon Church at 9:00 o'clock the Holy Saturday Epitaph begins.
You may wonder why there is another Epitaph procession one day after the all day lasting Epitaph processions of Good Friday. The tradition still stems from the "Venetian times", when a procession was not permitted on Good Friday and thus was held on Holy Saturday. The Corfiots kept the tradition from 1574 until today, but in the meantime, of course, also have their Good Friday processions.
The parade with the carried Epitaphios is supported by Corfu's magnificent bands, first and foremost the three top-notch philharmonic bands, Paliá, Mantzaros and Kapodistria.
During the St. Spyridon procession the theme from Hamlet is played. Only on this one time and occasion for the rest of the year.

There are quite a few typical Corfiot customs, some temporarily forgotten and nowadays revived, others never been omitted on the island. The smaller and larger events on Holy or Good Saturday take place at various locations, but mainly in the old town center.
Mastelas at 11:00 o'clock.

A typical Corfiot custom, the "mastelas" (the "washtub" or "water barrel") collection is known as a "First Resurrection" event in the old commercial center of Corfu town.
At Pinia, in the midst of Old Corfu, and middle of the street, a flower-myrtle-and-ribbon-embroidered, water-filled barrel is placed and waits for donations of coins. In return the donations are supposed to bring you good luck. Today, a randomly chosen person from the crowd will splash the water or jump into the barrel and collect the money. According to the original custom, this had usually happened involuntarily to an innocent passer-by who then got thrown into the wet. In return, this person tried to make all other people standing around also wet, and you can imagine, how much fun there was going on. As a reward for the unwillingly baptism , the "victim" may keep the coins. Some claim, the old-fashioned way of this custom is still in use today. You may go and check it out yourself.
The "water-splashing" happens with the first bell sound for the Resurrection.

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Pot-throwing (or 'jar-smashing') at 11:00 o'clock.

This custom dates also back to Venetian times, although the Venetians didn't exactly throw pots out of their windows, nor did they do it at Easter. The custom was a 'New year's' ritual -actually marking the beginning of spring time- by getting rid of old unneeded stuff and making room for new things, literally by throwing the old things out of the window right in the street.
This is at least what the Corfiots "recall" from their former occupants. Whatever the past has been, the Corfiots do like throwing earthen and colored flower pots today. Out of their windows. In the middle of the street.
Many of the pots are partially filled with water, this is in order to ensure that the potsherds don't shatter in an uncontrolled fashion.
The "botides" are specially made ceramic pots, most of them small and medium sized, but some also a meter high or even bigger. It is unquestionably impressive when all pots fall at the stroke of 11:00 o'clock and at the sound of the first bell for Resurrection.
It's noisy but different to usual sounds. It's a thud noise, a sound of its own, and so well synchronized that again you might feel moved. It is only a short 3 to 5 minutes spectacle but it draws many people, and not only tourists.
Afterwards you can see people picking up the sherds, some of them truly colorful and decorative and suitable for displaying in a bowl or vase.

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Anastasi Service at night

The church service for the big event in the night starts at the Church of Agia Paraskevi (Holy Friday Church.)
And now comes the night with its highlight for thousands of people, praying together in the open park space between the Liston and the Ionian Academy close to the waterfront, at the Upper Esplanade Square. Everybody holds an unlit candle -they are for sale everywhere around the Liston and the Old Town- and attends the mass held by the Bishop. When the clock strikes midnight, the Bishop solemnly proclaims "Christ has arisen" (Christos Anesti) , the bands burst into sound and the grand firework  and rockets shoot up into the sky. Canon sounds from the fortress mix into the sound explosion, church bells are ringing, and everybody passes on the candle light, from person to person until the whole place is lit in a sea of lights.
This is the Easter night in Corfu ...
The big ceremony is over, and now the party begins. But for you, firstly, there is to find the best strategy to get to the place where you want to go. There are people everywhere and the bands start marching again. Everybody is cheerful and happy, everybody smiles, laughs, celebrates. Crowds of people are rushing or trying to rush to the restaurants or their homes where they celebrate with big meals and wine. Because Lent is over, seven weeks of fasting and restriction.
fireworks rockets canons corfu easter night holy saturday anastasi resurrection celebration

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Easter Sunday
No matter how long the party of the Easter Night went, on Easter Sunday the program starts with early morning services at various churches. The churches parade with their faithful followers through town, which is truly special to see! And the marching bands are also hitting the road again, marching up and down and making everybody enthusiastic, playing cheerful sounds, all very much to the delightment of the viewing crowd. The bands seem to come from all corners, you shall notice when you walk in town. While you take a turn, another band comes out of the street and sometimes they even run into each other and merge into opposite directions. It is so happy and cheerful! It is plainly brilliant!
In the afternoon, quite according to the old tradition, the Navy Base at the New Fortress is giving out  meze, a special meat-mixed recipe. There are traditionally some happy and eye-catching performances as dancing groups and the like.
Easter Sunday is lamb eating in Greece, and so it is in Corfu. There will be no Greek family without roasted lamb during Easter, but there are many more traditional meals included. The delicious magiritsa soup with intestines, prepared with many herbs and spices. Avgolemono, a soup of broth, egg and lemon, another typical Corfiot dish and
chilihourda ,another local Easter soup, and fogatsa or 'brioche', the Venetian originated columbines bread of which the shape reminds of a dove.
Not to forget the Easter eggs! Red eggs that is in Greece, and you usually knock them against other friends' and family members' eggs. The ones that break first, are out. The one that lasts longest is a promise for good luck.

And what do people wish each other with Easter?

Καλό Πάσχα!
'Kalo pas-cha!' - Happy Easter.

χρόνια πολλά!
Chronia polla! - Many years (like 'many happy returns')

Χριστός Ανέστη!
Christos Anesti! Christ is risen.

Christos anesti kai anesti alithos.
Christ is risen . He is risen indeed.
(The second part or all of it is what you usually answer to 'Christos Anesti')

Καλή ανάσταση!
Kali anastasi!
(This may sound a bit odd in our language, but it literally means 'Good Resurrection')
It is in this same spirit, that WhatsUp-Corfu wishes all of you a Happy Easter season!

Source: syba, WhatsUp-Corfu
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