Easter is the biggest religious celebration in Greece. It’s spring and Greece is in bloom, nature is in celebratory mood! So are the people, and in every village and city around the country, they celebrate in their local, traditional way.Let’s see some of the most spectacular customs worth to live, no matter your religious beliefs.
On Palm Sunday, fifteen local philharmonic bands take part on the procession from St. Spiridon. This custom dates back to 1630, when a miracle by St. Spiridon saved the town from the Plague. This day, people in Corfu eat stock fish or salted cod.
On Holy Thursday, during the Liturgy that narrates the twelve parts of the gospels describing the life, death, resurrection, and teachings of Christ, twelve candles are lit at the beginning of the mass and one candle is blown out at the end of each gospel part.
On Good Friday the funeral processions begin early in the afternoon from several churches and as time passes more and more processions meet at various points in the town. The last procession takes place in the Metropolis Cathedral with the participation of where marine soldiers and philharmonic bands.
In the morning of Holy Saturday there is another procession of Saint Spyridon accompanied by the island’s philharmonic bands and at 11am the bells ring to announce the “Morning Resurrection”. The most spectacular moment is now, when ceramic pots are thrown from balconies and windows. This custom possibly originates from the Venetians , that used to throw old objects out of their windows on New Year’s Day, expecting a wealth of new things in the New Year. Other option is that the custom originated in Ancient Greeks’ attempts to elevate Persephone from the underworld, in order to bring Spring. After the smashing of pots the philharmonic bands play music once again. At night, people gather in the central squares of the villages and Corfu Town to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. At midnight cannons are fired and fireworks are lit.
In Holy Thursday morning takes place the Holy Fountain Ceremony. This is the re-enactment of the washing of the twelve disciples’ feet during the Last Supper, before Jesus was crucified. This is performed in Chora’s Central Square (also called Chora) by the Bishop and twelve monks. Once the Bishop has finished washing the disciples’ feet prays in a sacred place, as Jesus prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his arrest).
Here you will live the most unusual Easter celebrations. In the town of Vrodados, members of two Orthodox churches built on two different hilltops on a distance of 400 meters away from each other, fire thousands of home-made rockets at each other’s churches while services are held inside, in order to hit the other church’s bell. This results in an astonishing rocket war, as the rockets leave stripes in the night sky. The rockets are prepared throughout the year by so-called “gangs” from the two parishes, Saint Mark and Saint Erithiani.
On Good Friday members of the clergy of both the Orthodox and Catholic churches meet at the port of the island and chant together while the holy sepulchre of St. Nicholaos Church is put into the sea.