1st New Year’s Day (Protochronia)
Gifts are given on New Year’s Day as well as Christmas Day in Greece, in remembrance of St. Basil – known for his kindness and generosity. A special New Year’s cake – Vassilopita – is served. The Vassilopita contains a ‘floori’ – a lucky charm or a coin – and whoever gets the piece of cake containing the floori will have good luck in the coming year.
Another tradition is to smash a pomegranate on the floor to bring good luck to the house in the coming year. Children go round the houses in the morning singing carols.
6th Epiphany (Theofania)
Priests bless the waters, to celebrate the baptism of Christ, by throwing a cross into the sea. Young men dive in to retrieve it and whoever succeeds receives a special blessing.
Again, children go round the houses in the morning singing carols.
January 6th is a public holiday.
2nd Presentation of Christ (Ypapanti)
Celebration of the day when Mary and Joseph presented the infant Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem.
40 days before the beginning of Lent, the Carnival begins on a Saturday evening with the opening of the Triodion, a book containing three sacred odes.
24th Burnt Thursday (Tsiknopempti)
“Burnt Thursday" or Tsiknopempti is celebrated eleven days before the start of Lent. The "Burnt" part refers to the grilling of meats, a main part of the celebration of this day.
On the weekend following "Burnt Thursday" there are parties and other events as that Sunday is the last allowable day for eating meat and is sometimes called "Meat-eating Sunday".
25th – 27th Tsiknopempti Weekend
4th – 6th Main Carnival Weekend
Sunday 6th is ‘Cheese-Eating Sunday’ or Tyrofagos, celebrated in Corfu Town. In the Historic Centre of Corfu Town during the morning promenade, masked Italianate groups circulate.
In Corfu the carnival or apokria celebrations have a slightly Venetian flavour from the periods that the island was under the control of Venice.
The main Carnival procession takes place, with floats, along with a programme of artistic presentations by the troupes. At the end, the "will" is read, King Carnival is burned and a firework display takes place.
7th Clean Monday
"Clean Monday" or Kathari Deftera, is the first day of Lent (Sarakosti). While a holiday atmosphere still prevails, the foods consumed are all "pure", without the shedding of blood. This allows cuttlefish, squid, fish roe and other items.
"Lagana" is a flat bread traditionally served on this day.
Traditionally on Clean Monday families go out in the morning and fly kites.
25th Independence Day
This is a double celebration commemorating Greece’s independence and also the Annunciation – the revelation by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would bear Jesus, the Son of God.
17th Palm Sunday
At 11 a.m. on Palm Sunday, the procession of Saint Spyridon's (patron saint of the island) relic begins. This was consecrated in 1630, in memory of the miracle St Spyridon performed to save the town from the plague. Nowadays, the evening before Palm Sunday, a prayer takes place on the rampart of Aghios Athanasios in the old fortress from where the Saint turned the terrible disease away.
The traditional dish, served in households and tavernas is stakofisi or cod Bianco.
18th – 24th Easter Week
One characteristic of Easter in Corfu is the 4-part chanting. This harmonic chant came from Crete in the 17th century and is known as Cretan music.
On the Wednesday of Easter Week a concert of religious music, performed by the town choir, takes place in the municipal theatre, announcing the approach of the Holy Passions.
On Thursday there is the mass of the Twelve Apostles in Duomo, the Catholic Cathedral in the Town Hall square, where they light 12 candles at the beginning of the mass and blow one out at the end of the reading of each Apostle.
On Thursday the traditional "Kolombina', (the sweet bread with a red egg on the top) is shared and in each church the ceremony of the Crucifixion begins.
22nd Good Friday (Megali Paraskevi)
In the morning, the ceremony of the "Deposition from the Cross" takes place and at noon, in all churches, the congregation begin to pay their respects to the beautifully adorned floral Epitaph. Early in the afternoon each church, one after the other, starts the funeral procession, criss-crossing the main roads of the town and the Liston.
The last procession at 9.45 p.m. is the Epitaph from the Metropolis Cathedral.
23rd Easter Saturday (Megalo Savvato)
At 6 a.m. on Easter Saturday, in "Panagia ton Xenon" church, the custom of the earthquake is re-enacted in remembrance of the earthquake created after the Resurrection, as described in the Bible.
At 9 a.m. the procession of the Epitaph of the Patron Saint begins from Saint Spyridon Church. This procession is the oldest, dating back to 1550 and has been consecrated in memory of his miracle which saved the island from starvation.
At exactly 11 a.m. the first Resurrection takes place botides (clay pots) being thrown from the windows and balconies when the first botos (chime of the bell) is heard. This noisy custom, first started in Corfu Town but now extending to the villages, is derived from the Venetians who, on New Year's Day, used to throw their old things from the windows in order to receive new ones for the New Year.
After the throwing of the pots, the bands parade around the streets playing joyful marches. Meanwhile at the "Pinia" corner in the centre of town, there is another custom called Mastela.
During the week people are asked to throw small coins in a half-barrel decorated with myrtle and ribbons, and after the first Resurrection at 11 am, someone must dive into the barrel to collect the money.
At 11.40 p.m. the Resurrection procession begins from Aghia Paraskevi Church, in Porta Remounda, and works its way down to the Espianada's "Palko" where at midnight, after the words "Christos Anesti"(Christ has risen) fireworks go off and the candles held by everyone there are lit. The purple cross on the fortress turns white and the bands begin to play joyful marches.
Once the fireworks display is over, people go home to eat Mayiritsa, a soup or dish made from the sheep's intestine, which is traditionally eaten after the Resurrection, to break the Fast.
24th Easter Day (Pascha)
Early in the morning, a procession leaves each church with the Resurrection icon and at 11 a.m. the Easter feast in the New Fortress begins.
In Corfu, in contrast with the mainland traditions, the lamb on the spit is not part of Easter Sunday custom. Easter lunch Corfiot-style is avgolemono soup with 2-3 different meats. Traditionally lamb on the spit is served on the Monday after Easter.
On the Tuesday after Easter at 5 p.m. there is a special ceremony where the relic of St Spyridon is returned to his ornate silver coffin.
1st May Day
Celebration of the coming of spring. People go into the countryside and pick colourful wild flowers and weave them into wreaths and garlands which are then hung over the doorways.
21st Celebration of the Anniversary of the Union of the Ionian Islands with Greece.
Every June, the Panhellenic Inflatable Speedboat Races is held in Garitsa Bay on Corfu, with the participation of speedboats from all over Greece. This is a grand nautical celebration honoured by the presence of well-known lovers of aquatic sports, including journalists, artists and athletes.
In July every year, Corfu is host to the Ionian Concerts – an international festival with important artists from all over the world and a Summer Academy for musicians and students of music.
7th Saint Kyriaki Day
Traditional festival in Peroulades in the Region of Esperion.
20th Prophet Elias Day
Traditional Festival of the Prophet Elias, at Velonades in the Region of Esperion.
26th Saint Paraskevi Day
Traditional Festival of Saint Paraskevi, at Velonades in the Region of Esperion.
10th Varkarola and Sardine Festival
Boats with choirs fill the Bay of Paleokastritsa, singing cantades (traditional romantic songs) while fireworks illuminate the sky.
The Sardine Festival begins on the 10th and lasts for 10 days in the harbour square of Benitses. Participants consume large quantities of sardines – predominantly grilled sardine with lemon and olive oil, accompanied by ouzo – with local bands and dancers also taking part.
11th Procession of St. Spyridon
The third procession of St. Spyridon is held in remembrance of the Saint’s deliverance of the island from the Turkish siege of 1716. After its return to the church, the Saint’s body is displayed for general worship for three days and two nights.
15th Assumption of the Virgin Mary
August 15 is the third most important religious holiday in Greece after Easter and Christmas – some would say it’s even more important than Christmas.
The whole country basically shuts down and people take time off to rest and to light a candle to the Panagia (Virgin Mary), whose ascent to heaven is celebrated on this day.
During September the Festival of Chamber Music takes place in Corfu.
28th ‘Ochi’ Day
Ochi Day (Anniversary of the ‘No’) is a public holiday celebrated in Greece every year to commemorate Greek Prime Minister Metaxas’ rejection of the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Mussolini on October 28, 1940.
School and military parades are held throughout the country.
6th Litany for St. Spyridon
On the first Sunday of November every year the litany of the Holy body of Saint Spyridon takes place to celebrate the anniversary of rescue of Corfu from the plague in 1673.
12th St. Spyridon Day
Public holiday in Corfu, to celebrate the anniversary of the Patron Saint Saint Spyridon.
25th Christmas Day
Households set up their ‘Christmas tables’ with dishes piled up with Christmas sweets – melomakarona and courambiedes.