Saints’ days, Carnival and, above all, Easter are reasons for Corfiots to come out on the streets of towns and villages to celebrate the many Corfu festivals and events.
If your visit to a particular village coincides with the local saint’s day, you can hardly fail to be caught up in the general atmosphere of excitement as the saint’s image is taken from his church and paraded through the streets in a lively procession. Afterwards there will be feasting and dancing, which you may well be invited to join.
Most impressive of all is Easter, the principal festival of the Orthodox year. Corfu has its own spectacular way of observing the feast, making this a good time to visit Corfu Town, though the weather can be uncertain and the evenings will be cool. Solemn processions take place on Good Friday, a somber day of mourning.
On Easter Saturday morning St Spiridhon is carried through the streets in a brilliant procession. What follows is unique to Corfu Town. At 11am the streets are emptied and mayhem breaks out, as unwanted crockery is hurled from every window on to the streets below. Nobody knows the origin of this extraordinary custom.
Evening Mass climaxes at midnight, when the priest announces that Christ is risen. Electric lights are switched off and the priest ignites a solitary candle, from which the worshippers then light their own candles. Immediately church bells ring out, and fireworks explode as the people make their way home for the Easter feast.
In Corfu Town, the announcement of Christ’s Resurrection is made from the bandstand on the Esplanade and is followed by church bells, music from the town bands and fireworks. Easter Sunday is a day for family celebrations, centred on a meal of roast lamb. There is often a communal evening celebration, at which visitors will be welcome.
Carnival is celebrated in Corfu Town on the last Sunday before Lent. After a colourful procession of floats accompanied by the town bands, an effigy representing the spirit of Carnival is ritually burnt.
'Clean Monday’, the first day of Lent, is celebrated with a picnic (weather permitting) of seafood, salad, olives, special unleavened bread and halva, a honeyed sweet containing nuts and sesame seeds.
Corfu’s patron saint, St Spiridhon, is the focus of several festivals. His remains are paraded in four annual processions and his name day, 12 December, is shared by about half the male population of the island. On this day, the saint’s body in its silver coffin is stood upright for the faithful to kiss his velvet slipper.
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