If the tradition of Greeks smashing plates is a sign of joy and celebration, then the inhabitants of Corfu are the happiest people on earth during Easter. But it’s not plates that are in Corfiots sights every Easter Saturday – it’s pottery
In the latest episode of the Ouzo Talk Podcast, hosts Tom Skolarikis and Nick Athanassiou take a look at some of the more bizarre Greek Easter traditions, including Corfu’s ‘Proti Anastasi’ (first resurrection) tradition, known locally as the ‘kanates’, or ‘botides’ (the pots).
Some hundred thousand spectators descend on Corfu Town’s main square every Easter Saturday to witness the bizarre sight of large pottery being thrown from windows and balconies and smashing to the ground in what is a centuries-old tradition on the island. For Skolarikis – whose family all hail from the island – it’s a must-see for anyone lucky enough to be on the island during the Easter period. “Corfu is one of those places that has some awesome Easter traditions – so much so that a lot of Greeks actually go to Corfu to experience it because of the spectacle,” Skolarikis tells Athanassiou.
“This is one of the biggest squares in Europe and it’s just a sea of people – there’s no standing room.
Those people that are close to the buildings need to move back otherwise they’re going to get hit with a pot. “What the owners of the houses and apartments do is they start throwing water out of the windows a few minutes before to make sure that people move back. “When the bells at St Spyridon start ringing (at 11 am), they start throwing things out the window.”
The exact origins of the custom are unclear however, one popular belief is that it originated with the Venetians – who ruled Corfu between the 14th and 18th centuries.
To mark the new year, the Venetians would throw out their old belongings to make way for new ones, symbolically making a new start to the new year.
Like so many traditions brought to the island by other cultures, the Corfiots adopted the tradition and moved it to Easter. Islanders also believe that the custom helps ward off bad spirits, with spectators taking pieces of the smashed pots home for good luck.
The spectacle is just one of a host of events on the island during Holy Week, which also includes; the litany of the relics of St Spyridon around Corfu Town, multiple opportunities to see the island’s over 20 marching bands across the week, the ‘epitaphio’ of multiple parishes.