Holidays And Celebrations In Corfu

Like every country Greece has several public holidays and celebrations throughout the year which are also applicable in Corfu. But Corfu also has a few festivities of its own, that are unique to the island. When you’re planning your holiday, it’s good to be aware of the calendar of celebrations, because public holidays mean that government offices are closed, public transport might be impacted and when the Corfiotes and other Greeks have a holiday, flights, hotels, and rental cars might be more expensive and you can expect attractions to be more crowded. On the other hand, it might also be interesting to know about certain celebrations so you can actually plan to experience the festivities yourself. So here is an overview of all the holidays and celebrations to be aware of when visiting Corfu.

New Year’s Day

January 1st

Like in almost every other country, New Year’s Day is a public holiday in Greece and Corfu to celebrate the start of the new year. January 1st is also the day on which the Greek Orthodox Church celebarates Saint Basil’s Day.

Epiphany

January 6th

Epiphany, which is also known as the Celebration of the Lights (or Ta Fota in Greek), is one of the most sacred holidays of the Greek Orthodox Church and is celebrated on January 6th of every year. On this day the baptism of Jesus Christ is celebrated. In Corfu Town, there is a special ceremony after the church service on this day, where a cross is thrown into the sea from the Mandraki Church opposite the Old Fortress. The lucky diver who is the first to reach the cross and ‘rescue’ it wins good will.

Carnival

Usually in February and ends 40 days before Easter

Carnival is a major happening in Corfu and the festivities attract people from all over the world. Although carnival has its roots in the Middle Ages, the Venetians have brought the festival to new standards during their rule over Corfu. The highlight of the festival is the fancy dress parade on the third and last Sunday of carnival, which ends with the burining of King Carnival. The burning of the giant straw puppet symbolizes the burning of all evil and all the sins of the Corfiots.

Clean Monday

40 Days before Orthodox Easter

Clean Monday, also known as Pure Monday or Ash Monday, marks the end of the Carnival and the start of the Lent. In Christianity, Lent is the period leading up to Easter and commemorates the 40-day period that Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert.

Independence Day

March 25th

On March 25th Greece celebrates its Independence Day to commemorate the Greek Revolution of 1821 against the Ottomans and the start of the independent Greek State. It is a national holiday in all of Greece, including Corfu, although the Ottoman forces never managed to occupy the island.

Orthodox Easter

Orthodox Easter is one of the most important celebrations of the year in Corfu and consists of festivities and events for more than a week. Many people even come to Corfu specifically for the Easter celebrations, which include many customs and traditions. Schools are even off for a total of two weeks around the Easter weekend.

Psalm Sunday: The easter celebrations start with a precession of Saint Spyridon, the patron saint of Corfu, one week before Easter. After a mass in the Church of Saint Spyridon a procession with the sacret relic takes place alongside the old city walls of Corfu Town.

Holy Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: During the Holy Week leading up to Easter there are many activities including concerts by different ensembles in several churches.

Maundy Thursday: The maundy rite (washing of the feet) takes place in the Cathedral of Saints Jacob and Christopher, where the Archbishop symbolically washes the feet of 12 children, followed by the Holy Hour ceremony later in the evening.

Good Friday: All churches have their Epitaph procession during which there is also music by bands, choirs, and orchestras.

Holy Saturday: On this day there is a reproduction of the earthquake that followed the resurrection of Christ which takes place in the Church of the Virgin Mary of Foreigners. Later, when all church bells ring, people throw old clay pots from their balconies. This tradition is called “botides” and has been adapted from a custom of the Venetians to throw out old things from their windows. In the evening, people gather outside to light a candle when the Pope announces God’s resurrection. Spianada is a great place to watch this.

Easter Sunday: On Easter Sunday there are processions with the icon of the resurrection. In the end people gather with their families to celebrate and eat.

Easter Monday: Another day of private celebrations, which usually consists of a festive meal with the family.

Labor Day

May 1st

Like in other countries, May 1st is also a public holiday in Greece to celebrate Labor Day, which is called Ergatiki Protomagia in Greek.

Union With Greece

May 21st

On May 21st of every year Corfu celebrates the Unification of the Ionian Islands with Greece in 1864. This is only a public holiday in Corfu and the other Ionian Islands and not in the rest of Greece.

Whit Monday

48 Days After Orthodox Easter

Whit Monday is a celebration of the Holy Spirit and takes place 48 days or 7 weeks after the Orthodox Easter. The day is also called Pentecost Monday (Deftéra Pentikostís).

Procession In Honor Of The Defeat Of The Ottomans

August 11th

The Ottomans started an attack on Corfu on June 24th in 1716 but never managed to occupy the island as the siege suddenly stopped on the 11th of August. The event is attributed to the intervention of Saint Spyridon, and this is considered one of the miracles performed by the patron saint of Corfu. Therefore the holy relic of the saint is celebrated by a liturgic procession every year on this day.

Assumption Of The Virgin Mary

August 15th

The Assumption of the Virigin Mary, also called the Dormition of the Mother God, is the most important celebration of the Virgin Mary. It is celebrated in many Orthodox churches across Corfu.

Anniversary Of Greece’s Resistance During WWII

October 28th

On this national day, Greece celebrates its refusal to surrender to the Italian forces in 1940 and its resistance that followed. It is therefore also called the “Day of No” (Imera tou Ochi). Greece is the only country that celebrates the start of World War II because it managed to withstand the attacks for 8 months before it was captured entirely, whereas most other countries capitulated within days.

Procession In Honor Of The Expelling Of The Plague

First Sunday of November

On the first Sunday of November a liturgy and procession takes place in honor of Saint Spyridon. The patron saint of Corfu is attributed with the miraculous stop of the plague epidemic that broke out in 1673 and killed many lives.

Saint Spyridon Day

December 12th

Saint Spyridon is the patron saint of Corfu and he is celebrated every year on December 12th. This is only a public holiday on the island and not in the rest of Greece. The celebrations start already on the evening before, called Saint Spyridon’s Eve (December 11th) and this is also when the christmas lights of Corfu Town are turned on.

Christmas

December 25th-26th

Public services usually only operate for a few hours and shops close early on the day of Christmas Eve (December 24th). The day after Christmas Day, also called the Second Christmas Day, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Glorifying Mother of God. Schools are closed for two weeks around Christmas.

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