Events-Easter Celebrations

Preparations for Easter begin far in advance, when homes are freshened with a new layer of whitewash or paint and rugs are taken up, beaten, and stored for winter. These preparations culminate with Holy Week, an extraordinary experience that visitors are invited to share with locals.
The week’s celebrations begin on Palm Sunday, and services include a procession through the old quarter accompanied by the island’s marching bands. Throughout the week, in church, the priest reads each of the twelve gospels. At home, preparations continue for the Easter feast. One of the most important tasks in kneading the special Easter bread, or tsoureki, made from slightly sweetened dough twisted into a braid. On Good Thursday, eggs are dyed blood red, buffed to a high sheen with a light coat of olive oil, then placed on the table. But they’re not to be eaten before the resurrection service.
On Good Friday, the mood is subdued. Early in the morning, local women go the church to decorate the Epitaphios, a symbolic bier for Christ, with flowers. It is placed in the middle of the church until nightfall, when it is led around the parish in procession.
On Saturday morning, after church, Corfiots flock to the old quarter to witness a unique custom. Banners are hung from the windows, and then when the church bells toll, large clay jars filled with water are tossed off from the windows and rooftops of the high buildings. The sound of the botides, as the jars are called, smashing against the cobblestone is like cannon fire– and this noise is amplified by music.
No one is quite sure of this custom’s origins. Some claim it is rooted in a Biblical quote (“Lord, cleanse me so I can shatter sinners like clay jars”), others say it originated in the Middle Ages as a way of exorcising the previous year’s evil, while another account says the noise symbolizes Judas’s anguished cries after betraying Jesus. No matter how it started, the custom is spectacular.

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