Easter in Corfu is a festive and lively affair by comparison to other areas in Greece. First-time visitors are always amazed (and perhaps, a bit surprised!) to experience the traditional processions and services held throughout the week. Most of the locals belong to the Orthodox Christian faith, but celebrations held also include various pagan traditions, Roman Catholic services, and the celebration of Corfu’s patron saint, Saint Spyridon. Even Venetian customs contribute to this unique, multi-cultural celebration! All Easter celebrations in Corfu are enhanced by the colorful arrival of spring and the beautiful music from several philharmonic bands playing through the town.
Due to the popularity of this special celebration, we strongly recommended bookings and making travel arrangements far in advance. Hotels in Old Corfu Town are in high demand, and this can be reflected both in price and availability. Bella Vista Hotel & Studios, however, provides the perfect accommodation for this celebration, as we are only a short bus or car ride away from the Old Town, and we offer competitive prices during the Easter season! Please contact a Bella Vista staff member for detailed information!
Palm Sunday’s procession of Saint Spyridon takes place to commemorate one of his miracles: the instance in which he freed the island of a deadly 1629.The procession has been held since 1630 and all 18 of the bands on the island participate!
Later that evening, there is a concert performed by the Philharmonic Society “Mantzaros” at the Municipal Theatre.
On Good Monday, locals head to fresh markets and shops in Old Corfu Town to begin preparing for the festivities to come. At home, they prepare special delicacies for Easter such as foyátsa (a kind of brioche decorated with a red egg), and mandoláto (a macaroon made of almond and honey historically favored by nobles). The warm aroma of freshly-baked pastries drifts through the streets and inside of the many churches that will hold evening mass throughout the city.
On Good Tuesday, the story of Mary Magdalene is read aloud by the congregation in Corfu Town’s churches. At 9:00 p.m., poems such as “From Golgotha to Resurrection” are also read aloud. Afterwards, music is performed at the Peristyle of the Old Palace.
On Good Wednesday, locals attend the Holy Unction. There, priests annoint churchgoers with holy oil. At 8:30 p.m., the Municipal Theatre hosts the Municipal Chorus as it sings the ecclesiastical hymns of Passion Week.
On Good Thursday, local churches hold a service in honor of the Holy Passion. In the Catholic Cathedral, Duomo, 12 candles are lit at noon and snuffed in succession as the 12 Gospels are read aloud. A bell rings on Good Thursday that alerts the populace to dye their Easter eggs red; this symbolizes rebirth and the cyclical nature of the world we live in.
As day breaks, the initiation of Good Friday is signified by the ringing of funeral bells. A morning procession carries the effigy of the body of Christ. On this day, young girls decorate the Epitaphs, whose circumambulation begins in the early afternoon and is accompanied by choruses and bands. At 4:00 p.m., a larger procession ensues. It begins at the Church of St. George near the Old Fortress. This procession moves forward until nightfall, when each church in the town (with the exception of Church of St. Spyridon) holds individual epitaphs accompanied by harmonic bands.
At 9:00 p.m., the final and most magnificent epitaph begins. It is performed by the Metropolitan Church, and the philharmonic bands accompany them with somber, mourning hymns. This is followed by schoolchildren and the boy scouts who march together in a procession. The air hangs heavy with sadness and reverence as people remember Christ’s sacred sacrifice.
Good Saturday begins at 6:00 a.m. in the Church of St. Mary, where an earthquake referenced in the Bible after Jesus’s resurrection is simulated. From 9:00 a.m., an epitaph begins at the Church of St. Spyridon in the centre of Old Corfu Town. The procession moves rhythmically with the music performed by three of Corfu’s finest philharmonic bands.
At 11:00 a.m., a crowd has gathered and waits for the “First Resurrection.” When Mass ends at the Metropolis (the main cathedral), bells from every church in Corfu ring out. Then, inspired by a passage in the Bible, thousands of ceramic vases filled with water are thrown from the balconies overlooking the streets of the Old Town.
Just before 23:00 p.m., everybody gathers in the central square, where a Holy Mass takes place. Each person in attendance bears a candle lit by a holy flame that they carry throughout the service and take home with them. Every home in the Old Town burns dozens of candles on their balconies which creates a one-of-a-kind heavenly glow over the whole city.
Precisely at midnight, the Second Resurrection occurs. A priest says “Christos Anesti,” and a magnificent bonfire is lit. Everyone shakes hands and wishes each other peace and a Happy Easter. According to tradition, every family boil eggs and paints them red, then they try and break them over the head of other family members.
Easter Sunday begins at 7 a.m. with a huge parade of icons pertaining to the Resurrection through the streets of Corfu Town. The parade concludes around 10 a.m. but this is when the real celebration starts! At 11:30 a.m., an early lunch is hosted at the New Fortress Naval Base, followed by another parade at 6:30p.m. that begins at the Church of Agia Triada (Church of the Holy Trinity) in Garitsa.
While traditionally Greek Easter meals feature lamb, the Corfiot Easter feast does not typically include it. Instead, various other meats and red-dyed eggs play a major role! The tradition is to crack the red eggs against other eggs, and then to place the shells on the doors, or to throw them into the garden to bless the next harvest. In addition, whoever has the egg that breaks all the other eggs is said to be blessed with good luck for the rest of the year!
Benitses is a seaside village conveniently located 12 kilometers south of Old Corfu Town. Benitses is an especially popular destination for travelers during the Easter holidays. Its close proximity to Corfu Town is alluring, but Benitses offers more moderately priced accommodations by comparison to hotels in the Old Town. Bella Vista Hotel & Studios offers competitive prices to visitors during this busy time. In addition, Benitses holds its own celebrations in the town that visitors can partake in. These festivities tend to be smaller and more intimate.
The following is what can be expected of the events held in Benitses during Easter week.
On Good Thursday at 8:30 a.m., a mass is held at St. Nicholas Church in the Benitses main town center. Another service is offered in the evening for patrons to attend.
At 9 a.m., a liturgy is held to commemorate death of Christ. The villagers of Benitses commonly decorate the Epitaphs with flowers to mark the mourning. A procession takes places around the village, which is followed by a liturgy service at 7 p.m.
Good Saturday begins at 10:45 p.m. with the liturgy for the resurrection of Christ. Following this liturgy, the whole congregation then goes to the central square of Benitses in a procession. The Resurrection on Easter Saturday is also now followed by a mass firework display in Benitses. The display starts at midnight, and is as spectacular as the famous one in the Esplanade Square’s bandstand in Corfu Town! During this time, the locals also give red eggs to one and another to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
For Easter Sunday in Benitses, a mass is held at St. Nicholas Church in the town center. After the mass, it is typical for families to hold small gatherings or dinners.
Benitses offers visitors the opportunity to experience Easter on the island on a smaller and more intimate scale. The celebrations in Benitses provide guests with an alternative to the masses which gather in Corfu Town, and the accommodation prices are also reflected in the high demand for rooms. During the Easter holidays, Hotel Bella Vista prices rooms very affordably for guests who wish to partake in the festivities.
Hotel Bella Vista strongly recommends advanced bookings due to the season. In addition to the spectacular religious celebrations taking place, Benitses is a charming seaside village featuring many restaurants and tavernas, museums, beaches, hiking trails, and much more. Overall, Easter celebrations in Benitses are a unique experience and are not to be missed! We look forward to you joining us soon at Bella Vista to celebrate the Easter holidays!