Easter in Corfu; Unique traditions still reviving

Chrisa Lepida | Live the World

November 23, 2022

As you probably already know, Greece hosts religious festivals with deeply rooted customs and centuries-old traditions all year round. One of the biggest celebrations of Christianity is of course, the Easter.

Preparations for Easter start weeks in advance. In fact, they start with the Carnival, followed by the Kathara Deftera, the fastening period and of course the Holy week.

However, I’m not gonna go through details of how we, the greeks, celebrate Easter; this time I’ll try to be more specific and present you a unique tradition worth attending while visiting Greece. As you have probably noticed on the title, on this page we’ll talk about Easter in Corfu and the island’s famous barrels’ & pots and mastela traditions.

In Corfu the festivities of Easter are unique. The Western Civilization's influences are clearly visible even in this mainly Greek-Orthodox festivity. Local customs and celebrations welcome thousands of tourists and locals to experience an Easter different from the rest, while in Greece.

The 'First Resurrection’ & the clay pots, a venetian tradition

On Holy Saturday at 11.00 in the morning the people are expecting the so-called 'First Resurrection'. After the morning Mass the bells ring joyfully and from the windows and balconies of the houses thousands of full of water clay pots are dropped on the streets. This custom is connected with the Gospels, but is also a Venetian influence, who used to throw from their windows old pots and old objects on New-year's day, expecting new things to be brought by the new year.

The Corfiots adopted this custom, but changed the date to Easter, the greatest Greek feast, and clay pots replaced the old objects. Another interpretation of this event suggests that the custom is pagan. Easter is occurring at the beginning of the new floral year, the nature awakes from hibernation and the fruits are collected in new pots, while the old ones are thrown away. After the dropping of the clay pots, the Philharmonics are marching on the streets of the historic center of the city playing joyful marches.

The custom of Mastela

In ‘Pinia' , the island’s commercial center, revives the old custom of 'Mastela'. The 'piniatores' that used to be the porters of the city, used to place on that spot an open barrel full of water. They decorated the barrel with myrtles and colorful ribbons, and spread around the place, were asking the passers-by to cast a make-wish coin in the barrel.

At the time of the 'First Resurrection’ the “Piniadoroi” had to catch someone to throw him into the Mastela, and later on drop him into the barrel. The soaked to the skin Corfiot sprinkles with water from the barrel the attendants and at the end he comes out with joy and laughter and of course his compensation, all the coins that he gathers from the bottom of the barrel.

The resurrection day, Anastasi.

And finally the time that everybody is waiting for has come, the hour of resurrection. The most spectacular Resurrection Mass takes place on the Upper Esplanade of Corfu Town, but of course each village has its own ceremonies. The Resurrection service takes place outside while after the moment of the Anastasi, everyone inside the church rushes to the priest to receive the ‘holy light’ in order to light their own candle. With the candle burning, people later on go to their homes. There, they will bless their home with the flame of the candle by making a cross at the entrance or above the door. Tradition says that by making this cross the Evil Eye or bad luck will stay away.

The next day the Greeks spend Easter Sunday morning slow-roasting the lamb and then the whole family gathers on the table to eat. The whole preparation and turning the spit is a communal experience that bonds people in the holy day.

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