Greek Easter in Corfu
Greek Orthodox Easter in Corfu Island
Of course there are dozens of reasons for someone to decide to visit Corfu at anytime of the year. I will tell you about the best reason and the most ideal season to visit it. It is the Easter in Corfu in the middle of spring.
If you are a type of person activated by the morning and do not have any difficulty in getting out of bed early, you could start being initiated in the spirit of the Easter in Corfu on Saturday at 6 in the morning from the church of the Virgin of Foreigners.
There you will watch the legendary earthquake which followed the Resurrection of the Lord. Heavy blows and cries create an atmosphere of piety and triumph for the victory of life over death. This could be an unforgettable experience although this is just the beginning. Three hours later starting from the church of Saint Spyridon, the protector of Corfu, begins the procession of the relic of the Saint along with the procession of the Epitaph of the church at the central square of Spianada accompanied by the sound of the popular bands of the island.
This custom maintain its roots from the time of the Venetian occupancy, when the carriage of the Epitaph was not allowed probably for security reasons and the Orthodox were carrying the relic of the Saint honoring him for having saved people from the plague in 1550 by throwing away the illness from the walls of the fortress.
At 11 am you must be at the narrow streets of the Old city where you will become witness of one of the most famous wars “the war of the jars”. The motto of this peculiar war is given by the sound of the second bell from the steeple for the first Resurrection. The people of Corfu throw jars from their balconies, above the red flags which adorn the railings, the “botides” the popular big jars with the narrow neck and the double handle. Botides are filled with water in order to create even more noise while they crush down to the ground.
All these things result in the creation of a strong emotional atmosphere which is further accentuated by the tremendous cannon shots from the fortress at the same time that the botides filled with water crush to the ground at the sound of music pouring out of the music instruments of the 18 bands of the city along with the applauses and cries of joy of the bystanders both locals and hundreds of tourists. Most of these tourists keep coming here every year being precise at their appointment on the Holy Saturday at the narrow streets of the old town. The noisy Resurrection does not stop here. By the burst of the jars, the bells from the steeples of the town announce the good news of the Resurrection. The one after the other the bells just like a solid chain keep transferring the message even to the smallest village of the island.
There are many interpretations for the breaking of the jars (botides) during the Easter in Corfu. According to one of these interpretations it is considered to be a medieval custom as a remaining trace from the Venetians. The Venetians, as Catholics, used to break the old jars the New years day, which was their most important feast, as a present for the New Year so as to bring lot of goods to their families. The Orthodox transferred this custom to the Easter which is the most important religious celebration for the Orthodox church.
A second version for the existence of this custom has also a medieval origin and states that through this procedure, people try to expel the evil and wicked spirits which tempted them during the previous year. The third version is of pagan origin. The exuberance of nature and the collection of fresh fruits need new jars and containers for their storage and so people throw away the old ones following certain rituals for the new harvest to be even greater. Of course there is also a religious version for this. According to this, the noisy breaking of the jars represents the rage and the anger of people for the hideous betrayal of Judas.